"When trials come these aren't punishments - ('I've done something bad - God is angry ') -- it's interventions. ("I am enslaved to something smaller than Jesus and God in his amazing grace is coming to set me free!") And in many cases the pain that a lot of us experience is the pain of God prying open our hands and taking away from us something that we have held onto more tightly than him. And it feels like the flesh is being ripped off our bones. But what we don't realize is in that moment God is setting us free. He's doing surgery on us not to hurt us but to liberate us. That's a good thing. So all of that to say that trials by themselves do not rob you of joy. Idolatry does. If you're suffering and you're angry and you're bitter and you're joyless it means that you've idolized and felt entitled to whatever it is you're losing. Entitlement and self pity stem from our belief that we deserve more than what we're getting (love, attention, respect, approval) and that means that joylessness and bitterness in the crucible of pain happens. When we lose something or are losing something that we've held onto more tightly than God. So if you're angry, if you're bitter, if you're joyless, if you're going through a trying time, as we'll see in a minute - don't first look at what problems exist OUTSIDE of you that may or may not be causing the trial. Look for the primary problem INSIDE of you and say what is it that God might be taking away from me in order to liberate me? There's nothing like trials to prove who we are and to prove what it is we're really living for. So how is your present disappointment, discouragement, or grief a window on what has actually captured your heart?
- Tullian Tchividjian (Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church)
The Gospel In Relationships
Conflict Resolution (Dr. Ernie Baker)