Last Friday night, I left the house where my parents and brother live and headed home to the seminary. As I was driving to the apartment, my parents were driving my younger brother to the emergency room.
Graham ended up being fine. Nothing serious. But we didn’t know that when we were getting ready to leave: we thought it might have been appendicitis. Interestingly, there was a sense of calm about the house while everyone prepared to leave. Nobody was panicked. Nobody freaked out. If you were looking at our family for the first time, seeing only the events at hand, you might think such a proceeding was common practice. You wouldn’t be too far off.
Driving home, this text came to mind:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
You’ve probably heard me reference James 1:2-4 before. You’ve probably read these verses in one of my other blog posts. I love this exhortation and promise, and the evidence is seen in how frequently I’m found quoting these words. This short paragraph finds its way into my conversations weekly, sometimes daily, as I continue to find instances where its truth applies to a specific situation.
But these words are not significant to me because they can be so readily applied to life. There are plenty of verses that would qualify for such a category. Nor are these verses meaningful because I’ve hidden them in my heart, though that does factor into the equation. Rather, these verses stand out to me because I’ve seen their truth lived out in the lives of my parents and brother.
I don’t have the time or the space to tell you every detail of every story, but let me give a brief summary of our family history: my family and trials are old friends. I can remember my dad coming home early one day after he had been laid off from his job. Not long afterward, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was hospitalized. After nine weeks in Children’s Hospital, he came home in a wheelchair, spending months in various therapies to regain physical abilities and speech skills. Somewhere in that time, we discovered that he had lost his sight. Since that point, my mom and my dad have both had cancer, and my dad has been diagnosed with type two diabetes. And he was laid off from another job. Currently, the Waller household seems to have settled down, but this ER visit could have easily started the process back up again.
At this point, however, we almost laugh when these situations arise. Trials are no longer earth-shattering events: they’ve become a part of everyday life. We’ve learned through the years that God reigns supreme, that he truly does work all things together for good, and that his wisdom and will far surpass any ideas we may have to the contrary. For instance, if my dad hadn’t been laid off when he was, he likely wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time at the hospital with my brother. Though Graham’s blindness seemed tragic in the moment, God has since caused the physical disability to serve in Graham’s spiritual testimony. The later medical issues with my parents served to set them as examples before the Body of trusting God through storms. In all things, God uses the pain and loss and hardship to increase faith and to encourage the church. As Paul noted in Romans, God does indeed cause all things to work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
My family is a living testimony to the truth of James 1:2-4 and of Romans 8. They prove God’s faithfulness and provision. When life takes an unexpected turn, I can rest in the sovereign goodness of the Lord, knowing that he is in control of the situation and will lead us through. In life, trials and tragedies will appear without warning, threatening to shake our faith in God’s ability to overcome. But I encourage you not to waver. Hold fast to the truth, and trust in our almighty God.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us…. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:7, 16-18