Thursday, July 4, 2013

Understanding the nature of trials

This is another subject I am extremely qualified to write about. I've been a Christian for the past 11 and a half years. Nearly that entire time has been trials. Only in the last few months have I begun to feel that the time of trials in my life is over and that the blessings of the Promised Land are on their way at last. It's been a long, hard and incredibly demanding road which has cost me absolutely everything - it even came close to costing me my life on a few occasions. But I learned to face and walk through them properly so I am now finally beginning to see a harvest.

Trials have taken many different shapes and forms in my life. Some have been very short and intense - like the last two months of my time in Taupo - others have been long and drawn out, such as periods of unemployment that have lasted nearly a year. Most of them have been specifically ordained by God to help me learn something about myself - others, sad to say, have been self inflicted and utterly pointless except to teach me to listen to God and do things His way rather than trying to make them happen on my own.

Every single trial serves a purpose. The final two months in Taupo were absolutely awful and were used to show me that God didn't want me in that town anymore and that it was time to move back to Tauranga. I faced a trial of finances while I was living in Auckland several years ago which taught me to be more careful with my money in future and helped me to learn the value of a dollar. The trial of burnout was used to completely destroy me so that I could be rebuilt from the ground up which was the only way that I could get better. And the trial of living at home at 29 years old helped give me the finances to fund my book and gave me a safe place to detox from getting off 8 years of antidepressant medication. These are some of the points I've learned about trials along the way.

The greatest trials in your life will reflect the deepest struggles in your heart.
The deepest areas of tension in my heart throughout my entire life have been massive issues with injustice, cruelty and suffering due to the selfishness of others. These areas were buried very deeply in my own psyche and although I was aware of them to some degree, they hadn't been brought to the surface so I couldn't really face them. In order to bring these to the surface, God put me into a situation where I was badly and unjustly hurt by the selfishness of others. God knew that this is what it would take to get me to face the reality of my own heart and what was happening under the surface. The anger at the injustice I suffered only began to fade once I began to face the real issue I was carrying around with me. Not to say that the circumstance I faced was right and that those people were justified - it was wrong and they were certainly in the wrong. But anger at the circumstance (however justified it was) was only part of the issue. The real issue was the deep tension God wanted to reveal in my life - so He used something to mirror it to get me to face it.

If you fail to learn the first time - you'll keep facing the same issue again until you do.
This is to coin the phrase "going round the mountain". If there's an issue in your heart that you refuse to face - you'll keep being put in circumstances and situations by God until you do. Not because He wants to be cruel and torment you - but because you can't walk forwards until you face what He wants you to face. I always remember hearing this quote, which, although it's rather harsh, has a lot of truth in it - "The only consistent factor in all of your failed relationships is you." If you keep trying to do something and it just continues to not work out for you - simply trying again is not always the answer. It could be that God is using the failure of something that you really want to see work out in your life because He wants to reveal something in your heart that's blocking you from receiving the very thing that you want to work out. Continuing to try and make something work out when God's trying to show you why it isn't working out is just like banging your head against a brick wall. It doesn't help anyone and only hurts you until you change your mindset and decide to make the change in your own heart.

Sometimes it's not God who determines the length of the trial - but us.
There are times when trials are not defined by any time period (40 weeks for examples sake) but by us and how long it takes us to realize the truth. Sometimes God puts us in specific trials until we learn that we actually have the power to put them to an end by either changing something in our circumstances that perhaps we didn't believe that we could change beforehand, or changing something within ourselves. I went through a long trial due to a friendship that had been badly strained due to the selfish actions of that person who lied to my face on two separate occasions and proved himself to be a selfish, dishonorable man. I suffered for a long time trying to keep the friendship alive and feeling worse all the time - until one day the penny dropped and I finally realized that perhaps I was only suffering because I was trying to continue this friendship when it wasn't meant to go any further. I asked God if He wanted me to cut all ties with this person and the peace of God flooded my heart like a river, plus He dropped one, simple word into my heart - "Irrepairable." I ended the friendship that day - permanently. I thought to myself afterwards - "If I'd just realized this was the case earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of needless agony!!"

If we don't listen to God when He speaks to us -  He will make us listen.
Several months after I faced burnout, I began to get a sense in the Spirit that things would change after 40 weeks. So, on the exact day that 40 weeks had passed since going through all of this, I asked God for an answer. "40 weeks is up - what next?" He immediately dropped the words into my heart - "Go to Tauranga". (I was living in Taupo at the time). So I said "Ok" & went to Tauranga to visit for a few days. When I got back to Taupo - things started getting worse and worse. Throughout this time I found myself blurting out the following saying without even thinking about it - "My time here is finished, I want to go back to Tauranga for good" but for some amazing reason I failed to even take notice of what I was saying and kept trying to make thing work in Taupo - not realizing that what I was saying was actually God speaking to my spirit telling me to move. Finally, all hell broke loose in the house I was living inand I was at a friend's place in tears, with no clue what was happening to me and why. She said to me - "Graham, your time here is done. Leave. Go back to Tauranga" and I finally realized she was right. Immediately I realized I had always known since I got back that my time in Taupo was finished, but my own stubborn mentality got in the way and I refused to listen to it. Therefore, God forced me to listen by making my circumstances unbearable until I finally woke up and smelt the coffee. Once again I realized if I had just listened earlier I could have spared myself a lot of agony.

I dedicate this blog to those of you who are going through trials and perhaps need a bit of clarity regarding what you are facing. I really hope and pray this speaks to you in some way.

Take care.

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