In my 20s and early 30s, I regarded life’s trials as intrusions that kept me from living real life. Oh sure, I knew that Jesus promised tribulation in this world (John 16:33), and I undoubtedly quoted it sanctimoniously to friends during their various times of difficulty. But deep-down, I resisted the idea that I should be subjected to hard times.
All too often, as I went through those hardships, I’d protest by declaring, “I want my life back!” In my estimation, adverse circumstances robbed me of the quality of life that I expected God to hand me. I equated ownership of my life with maintaining control of my situations.
It took years (far too many years, actually) before I understood that my trials were as much a part of my life as the things I enjoyed. They didn’t intrude on my life. They were part of life! Furthermore, they were meant as God’s instruments in refining my character to reflect Christ’s.
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~~James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Having moved through a few more decades, I’ve learned that life fluctuates between good times and uncomfortable (even painful) times. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t give me the right to demand life on my terms. I belong to Him as His slave, and because of that fact, He has the authority to exercise full control over my circumstances.
This past couple years, I’ve noticed several friends respond to their struggles by declaring, “I want my life back!” So often, I’ve wanted to shake their shoulders and shout, “This is your life, honey! Grow up and stop being so self-centered!” Thankfully, the Lord has mercifully restrained me from making such a callous mistake, reminding me of the gentleness I desired from my friends when I was young.
Interestingly, I’ve been going through a variety of trials lately that have interfered with my schedule and how I want my life to proceed. A few weeks ago, I caught myself telling God, “I want my life back!” Almost immediately, I had to laugh at my self-centered attitude, and then I had to repent of my hypocrisy.
Like my younger friends, I still need to acknowledge that my life belongs to the Lord, Who will use my circumstances for His purposes and glory. I don’t have to like my trials, but I can take joy in knowing that He uses them to develop me into a woman who lives for His glory.