I wanted to share something really cool that came out of our small group last night. We were talking about different characteristics that God was building into each of us (the Bible calls them "fruit of the spirit"). We each shared some weaknesses and some strengths. After sharing our strengths, someone pointed out an interesting fact. There was a common thread that ran through each of our stories as we went around the room. In every instance where someone felt God had strengthened a certain characteristic in their life, there was a trial or test or tragic event that brought that trait forward.
For instance, one of the things that has changed most in my life over the last 3 years (since the accident) is the amount of kindness/compassion I have towards others. If you ask anyone who knew me before April 2004, they would tell you that compassion was not one of my strongest traits. Let's be honest, I was downright hard and unforgiving in some areas.
Now, 3+ years later, I can see how God has used the events of my life to soften my heart, to give me greater empathy for people and the circumstances they find themselves in. Rather than saying I want to understand where you are coming from, I find that I truly can. The newspaper articles from the events of that day, the front page story the following January in our local newspaper in Nashville and the release of the Home Life article this month have opened the door for ministries I never imagined. And God has softened my heart so that I can understand the needs associated with the countless phone calls, e-mails and letters I have received. Would I have chosen this path? Not consciously. But I guess, in a way, I did the day that I said, "God, whatever you do, I want to be used by you." That day, and every day since when I have prayed that prayer, my life became less about me and more about Him and His glory. John put it this way: "He must increase, I must decrease." When my wife died and my son followed five days later, I had to ask myself a really tough question: "Did I really mean it when I said you could have it all? I said I would follow you and give you my everything, God. That was easy when things were good, Lord, but now is when it really counts."
Think hard about this next part. Where is God taking you? Is it possible that the trials you endure today may be the proving ground for your victories tomorrow? What is it that God is trying to develop in you that He could only do by placing you in the fire first? And, when it's all said and done, will your life still point others to Him? Will it be a purer reflection of Christ, a greater example of God's grace or a stronger vessel of His love? Or maybe God's just trying to get your attention so that you will stop settling for second best when He has a kingdom to offer you? Whatever the case, endure...God will carry you through and show you His goodness in the end. Guaranteed for those who persevere.