When I read the above passage this morning, it reminded me of a goofy habit I picked up last year: I believed that anything that caused me to suffer actually had something to do with me. I longed for comfort--not for the sake of others--but simply that I might be comforted. I had forgotten a key fact of my life in Christ: It is not mine.
You see, last year was a very busy year for me. I found myself multitasking positively everything, including, sadly, my Bible reading. Oh, I would read, but a portion of my brain cells were already busily planning the next thing I needed to do. Then there were the headaches--a whole year of them. Let us not forget that homeschooling 3 kids, the oldest in 3rd at the beginning of the year and 4th at the end, presented me with a whole new world of challenges. Naturally, there were several other minor annoyances and grievances, there was some crushing fatigue that threatened to wipe out my consciousness every afternoon, there were too many chores, and there simply were not enough hours in my day. So I, fine Christian chica that I am, did not spend time humbly seeking God's wisdom and asking for His priorities. I did not fall on my face and beg for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to strengthen me and to show me what I was doing that I shouldn't be or how to organize my task list to meet God's standards. Nor did I focus my mind on the Word and shut out the world for a time, taking all thoughts captive to Christ. As a matter of fact, out of the many positive things I could have done, I chose none. Instead, in my enviable wisdom, I threw a temper tantrum.
It turns out, throwing a temper tantrum with God has much the same effect as a toddler throwing a temper tantrum with a seasoned parent. I felt miserable, I accomplished very little, and I still did not get my way. Somehow, I doubt it affected God very much at all. I can almost sense Him looking up from His work from time to time to ask, "Are you finished yet?" only to go cheerily back to work when it was clear that I was not, in fact, finished. He allowed me to go on for a year until I had nothing left but tears, and then, faithful as He is, He reminded me that His grace is sufficient for me. I do not need to be whole, pain-free, or living in the ideal situation to do all the work He has given me to do. I simply need to be submissive and obedient. Oh, and it does help to know the difference between the work He has given me and the extra helpings I piled on the plate all by myself...
It took some time, but now I do remember why James says to "count it all joy. . . when you meet trials of various kinds." I recall that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." I remember that the apostle Paul, too, had a thorn in his flesh and was not without physical discomfort. Somehow, I knew all that in the thick of my troubles last year--and there are many other merely emotional trials that were intensely personal and therefore intensely meaningless to other people--but I did not understand it. I heard, but I did not listen. That goes hand in hand with temper tantrums, I suppose.
And I did seem to forget the critical fact that the Almighty Creator of all things, the One by whom all things are held together, the Alpha and the Omega actually has a larger plan that spans all of history, every single person who ever lived and all who will yet live, and perhaps even beyond. I somehow forgot that this unfathomable, immeasurable, immense plan, begun and maintained by a boundless Person who intimately knows details I do not even register--this Masterwork of a plan does not hinge on me. Seems like common sense, doesn't it?