March 26, 2008

Trials, Tribulations, and Perseverance, Oh My!

2008 1509 page56 capIFE LOOKS PRETTY GOOD AT THE moment. I graduated from college and started a great job three weeks later. I have my own apartment and a decent car. My family loves me and tells me how proud they are of me. I should always feel blessed.
Even so, there are days when I just don’t feel like I am.
Take yesterday, for example. I backed into the side of my neighbor’s car and broke off the mirror. I had to knock on his door and confess, and to top it off my left brake light doesn’t work. The whole thing put me in a bad mood for the rest of the evening.
Sometimes it seems the world is out to get me. Maybe I don’t have people persecuting me or saying evil things about me, but I often find myself feeling like a victim.
It doesn’t matter if I’ve heard a hundred sermons about praising God through adversity, or if I memorized that verse about all things working together for good. If there is one concept that I truly struggle with, it’s rejoicing in trials and tribulations. The final verses from the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:11, 12) are the hardest ones for me to relate to.
2008 1509 page56Because of that, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like a “bad Christian.” I’ve wondered if I was being immature and self-centered for feeling hurt or angry. I’ve felt stupid admitting that I questioned God’s plan for my life. Maybe most of all, I’ve felt guilty.
Then one morning I read a familiar verse in a different way: “But we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5, NASB).
That verse seemed to hold the cure to my guilt. God laid out a plan for me to follow when I didn’t know how to start. Now Romans 5:3-5 has become my guide to a fulfilling and hopeful life.
Here’s how it goes: I find myself angry, bewildered, frustrated, and in the middle of a crisis. Of course, I’m having a hard time imagining a brighter future. Sometimes all I can do is run out the clock, but I won’t give up.
Going on with my life is another way of saying persevering, and perseverance is the next step toward hope. I’ve found that even if I don’t feel like I can go on, I can still pray. I’ve never seen any mountains moving, but usually the next thing I know I’m on the other side—through the crisis and still alive. God answers my prayers, just not with a lot of fireworks and hoopla.
The second step is proven character, which I like to think equals self-confidence. Proving to myself that I can do something once makes it much easier to do the second time. God can take rough times and use them to teach me to trust ultimately in Him. When I realize the two of us can get through anything, I have hope.
So does hope give me immunity to heartache? Unfortu-
nately, no. Even though the love of God is poured out in my heart, I still feel pain. Words still hurt, losing someone still breaks my heart, and God’s plan isn’t always clear.
I’ve realized I can’t be happy all the time—it’s just not possible. God doesn’t expect me to
always understand because I can’t—I don’t know what the future will be.
He does expect me to pray for wisdom and patience, and then listen when He speaks. Rejoicing in trouble means relying on Him for understanding. It means I will be at peace until I get the answers. I know one day it will make sense, even if it takes years. Beneath my confusion and frustration, I know God hasn’t steered me wrong yet. He’s used every bad moment to make me into the person I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Maybe there are worse things than broken taillights in my future. Maybe every bad day I’ve had will pale in comparison to what’s in store. I just don’t know. But what I do know is that God has turned each bad thing into a good thing so far—and I know He will keep doing that as long as I let Him.
When I remember that, I really do feel blessed.
Megan Brauner graduated in December 2007 from Southern Adventist University with a communication degree. She’s currently working in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her taillight was not fixed at the time of this article’s publication, and probably won’t be for some time. But it’s OK.


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We see a wealthy billionaire, never in need or want;
God sees a poor pauper, in need of His life-sustaining love.
We see men mourning needlessly of their human condition;
God sees a person thirsting for righteousness and seeks to fill them.
We see a meek person with lowly stature and wonder what in life they’re after;
God sees a priceless human being whom His love has captured.
We see men and women desperately seeking God in a world that tries to vacate His Presence;
God sees a precious soul athirst for spiritual food and feeds them with the Bread of Life.
We see a cruel, unforgiving tyrant relentlessly exerting their power over their employees and think that person deserves punishment;
God sees a person in need of His grace and mercy and knows what is best.
We see a goody-two-shoes, so to speak, and call them weak;
God sees the pure in heart and knows that with His power working through those eyes of faith, a spiritual revival can start.
We see a fanatic who advocates for peace with God and man;
God sees one of His own, devoted to leading all of humanity into trusting His guiding Hand.
We see a person forsaking earthly pleasures as they store their treasures in heaven and we think they’re insane;
God sees a person seeking His kingdom virtues and values first and reminds them that His divine love and provision shall sustain.
We see a person who calmly endures trials and 
tribulations through insult and slander;
God sees a person who’s chosen to focus on salvation and the thereafter.
We see a person who is rejoicing through all of life’s curveballs and wonder why;
God sees a person who has learned to trust in Him, a person knowing there’s hope beyond the clear blue sky.
We see a person consistently leaping for joy and 
question their sanity;
God sees a person with heaven on their mind and hope in their hearts—
For He’s promised to return and give them an eternity,
Free of sin,
Vacant of disease,
Void of all hurt and sorrow—
With God, you see, there is always hope for tomorrow.
Alexis A. Goring, a recent graduate of Columbia Union College, holds a degree in print journalism. She loves to write, listen to music, and go shopping.

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2008 1509 page60 capHE DIM ORANGE GLOW THAT HAD once flickered brilliantly against the stone wall now threatened to die out completely. Water dripped consistently from the thatched roof—a reminder of the storm that had just passed. After the hurried activity of the day, the palace grounds were calm and still amid the silence of its sleeping members. Except for one place.
Physically, he seemed calm—almost stoic—lying on the cold granite floor. But internally, the king was a melting pot of turmoil, sorrow, and regret. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, and desired to talk to no one. His mind began to wander. He thought about the wild animals and giants he’d slain. He thought about his friend Jonathan. He thought about the victories and the defeats.
Then his mind drifted back to that fateful night a short while ago. Although his nation was enduring an excruciating war—as he gazed across the kingdom from the palace roof and basked in the cool night breeze—he was sure that God would give them victory.1
2008 1509 page60Then he saw her. Even now he could visualize her features and figure—it was an image forever stamped on his brain. As he watched her bathe, his meditation with his Lord turned into fantasies of lust. As the most powerful man in the world, he could have any woman he wanted . . . and he wanted her.
That one decision had led him down this dark road . . . to this cold floor. He’d come to the point where he began to cover up one sin with another. Ultimately, he’d been led to murder one of the best men in his entire kingdom. All in the name of . . . well, he wasn’t even sure of that anymore.
He’d realized his mistake, but it was too late. After righteously chastising the king’s actions, the prophet Nathan had given God’s punishment: his unborn child would die. It was more than David could take. It hadn’t ended with Uriah’s murder—he was now guilty of another.
Setting Ourselves Apart
Judging by Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, David should not have been a very blessed man—particularly in this instance. He wasn’t exactly gentle, merciful, pure in heart, or a peacemaker.
But David was blessed, even after this unthinkable strand of transgressions. And God takes it even further than that. Not only was David blessed; he is called a “man after God’s own heart.”2 That seems like pretty high praise for an adulterous murderer who would be condemned by today’s society. It would seem as though there are many great men of the Bible who would be more deserving of that title. The Bible reveals no such blemishes in the lives of Daniel, Joseph, and John the Baptist. But God chose to reveal everything about David. Why?
When reading the Beatitudes I’ve often become a bit overwhelmed. I look at my life and realize the number of times each day I’m not gentle, merciful, pure in heart, or poor in spirit. Meditating on the life of David has helped me realize that receiving God’s blessing is not an “all or none” scenario. It’s how we respond to our mistakes and what we do from that point on that define us.
When the prophet Nathan came to rebuke David for his sin,3 he told David a story about a rich man who had hundreds of animals but chose to take the one lamb owned by a poor man to feed his guest. David’s spirit burned with anger, and he told Nathan that this rich man was worthy of death. “You are the man!” Nathan proclaimed.
There are many situations such as this in the Bible in which a nomad prophet sends down condemning words on the most powerful man in the kingdom. Moses accosted Pharaoh, Elijah accused Ahab, and Samuel arraigned Saul. In all these situations the kings failed to heed the message of God. Their anger burned as their pride was too great to recognize and repent of their mistakes.
David’s response set him apart.
David didn’t throw Nathan in a dungeon, he didn’t threaten his life, and he didn’t say he’d have to think about it for a few days. No, David immediately understood his mistake and fell prostrate in repentance before his God. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he said in reply to Nathan.
I’ve found that God oftentimes helps us realize our sin. Sometimes He uses people, sometimes circumstances, while other times He just convicts us internally. From there on, however, it’s up to us. Will we react like David or like Ahab?
Anything but Perfect . . .
I think God knew what He was doing when He gave the title of “man after God’s own heart” to David. As much as I’ve felt overwhelmed by the lofty goals of Matthew 5, I’ve grown even more in awe of the men and women in the Bible who displayed them with apparent relative ease. Knowing he would go to jail, Joseph chose to remain pure. Knowing that he would probably be killed, Daniel chose to remain righteous.
But in David we have a man who was anything but perfect. A man who blatantly broke God’s laws, yet a man still held in highest esteem by heaven. In fact, during the evil kingships of his children and grandchildren, God vowed not to destroy the kingdom for the sake of His servant David.4 Need more evidence about the esteem in which God held David?
Like David, each one of us will at some point have to face Goliath. As I read the Beatitudes I feel pretty good about how I live my life in regard to most of them. Then I am sent back down to earth as I hit the “Goliath” in my life. Maybe you don’t have any problem giving mercy, but being humble or poor in spirit, on the other hand, is difficult, if not impossible. Perhaps you’re an excellent peacemaker, but when it comes to having a heart of purity you’d rather not think about it. We’re all blessed with certain gifts; we’re all cursed with individual struggles. That’s part of the carnal nature of being a human being. It is how we respond to our greatest struggle—and what we do when shown our blemishes—that will ultimately define our lives.
Paul says in Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.5 I’m sure that includes Daniel and Joseph, too. And I know David fell far short of God’s glory in many ways. Like David, despite my sin, my faults, and my carnal desires, I can still be a man after the heart of God.
For me, that’s an incredibly encouraging thought as I read and focus on the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who have fallen into impurity and survived to discover the light of God’s salvation. Blessed are those who’ve treated others harshly but now go out of their way to exhibit mercy. Blessed are those who’ve been hungry for the things of this world yet now are satisfied only by the righteousness of our Lord and Savior. Blessed are those who’ve been persecuted and those who’ve fallen short but now, like King David, are called men and women after God’s own heart, because, as Jesus says, “your reward in heaven is great.”6
12 Sam. 11
2See Acts 13:22
32 Sam. 12
42 Kings 8:19
5Rom. 3:23
6Matt. 5:12, NASB
Jimmy Phillips is a senior communications major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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* These are the top 46 words used by 100 people polled, including 35 Union College (Lincoln, Nebraska) students, when asked: "What are the first three words that come to mind when you think 'Beatitudes.'" The size of each word represents the number of people who said it. Note: some respondents chose to submit their answers in a three-word phrase, hence the retention of words such as "to" and "of."