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Food for Thought - Musings

Turning Trial into Trail

“Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that…”

James 1:2-4 was one of the first verses I ever memorized. As a new Christian, I was delighted to know that trials were opportunities to grow in my faith and were a delivery system for the raw materials that would help me develop endurance so "my faith could be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." I remember one day, after I had been a Christian for a number of months, coming out to the parking lot after class (I was just starting college) and discovering that someone had stolen the front grill of my car. I was so excited! I could not wait until Friday night to share at our college bible study that God was growing my faith. I was overcome with joy that at such an early juncture on my faith journey, God would consider me able to embrace such a trial. I wish I could say that I continue to respond to trials with such joy and delight, but the truth is I do not. In fact, James 1:2-4 has given way to Romans 8:28; “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called…” The Romans passage seems much less demanding. It is a truth I can lean into, or not; and because it is true, it will still happen. On the other hand, the James passage asks something of me, rather than being a passive participant, it challenges me to an internal, active, joy-filled embracing of the trial, looking beyond the trial to that which will be accomplished in my life as a result of the trial. This is a much more demanding posture of faith and one I no longer embrace with the enthusiasm I once did.

This change saddens me. What happened to that new Christian who would be beside himself with joy when a trial came? I think I have lost perspective. I think that in the moment I desperately want what I want, the way I want it, and when that does not happen I react out of frustration, even anger. I now tend to see trials as something that keeps me from getting what I want, rather than providing an opportunity to grow my faith and help me to receive that which I most deeply desire. To use an old analogy, in this current scenario, I am on the throne and God is not.

Now this all brings me back to the word ‘trial.’ As I was typing the word trial the other day, I stumbled upon an amazing discovery when I misspelled trial. Instead of typing ‘trial,’ I ended up with the word ‘trail’ which gave me pause. I began to ponder the undeniable link between trial and trail, convinced that some profound insight lay buried just beneath the surface. As I closely examined the word trial, I noticed the letter "i" smack dab in the middle of it. I was excited! The letter ‘i’ occupies center stage in the word trial. This was quite telling - at least to me. For in my own life, it is when I am occupying the center stage of my world, my circumstances and my relationships that I interpret all that happens through my self-centered lens of what is in it for me. However, if I am willing to move my “i" from center stage to stage right, something amazing happens - the word trial becomes trail. When I move myself to the side, the trial is transformed into a trail—a trail leading to spiritual formation and the freedom to be and become who Jesus has created me to be. When I exit center stage, the trial is transformed into a trail and becomes an invitation to journey with Jesus into a deeper more robust faith. When I was young in the faith I intuitively knew this and thus joyfully welcomed the coming of trials, seeing them as God given trails filled with adventure, promise and opportunity—trails that I did not walk alone. Jesus was with me reminding me, “Take courage, do not be afraid, but be joy filled for I am with you and this trail will help you to be and become who I have created you to be.”

This month, I encourage you to seek to turn your trials into trails, seeing them as invitations from Jesus to new adventures in faith, new freedoms to be and to become, and new opportunities to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

"Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials (TRAILS) …"
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