I have the most mediocre, run-of-the mill trials.
I mean, really.
And, since I know You’re listening, Lord, that doesn’t mean I want them ramped up to a Daniel or Job on the scale of suffering! Just making sure You know I’m okay with my Mary and Martha level. I’m good with that! ;-)
Unlike my Job-like friends I talked about in this article, I’m kind of this mediocre sufferer. My trials are always highly obnoxious, only a little scary, and a bit sad. Not real earth-shattering. Let me make a “RJ’s Suffering List” in a Paul-like way. You remember the Apostle Paul’s list, right? Involves a lot of beating, people trying to kill him, and even a shipwreck? AND his list is all stuff done in the name of Christ! Like real persecutions for his faith. MY list is just regular life woes. Would only count as “thorns in the flesh”!
So, that disclaimer being said, RJ Conte’s very vulnerable, honest, and pretty complete list would go something like this:
Separated her shoulder and ankle ligaments – twice each
Had hormonal imbalances.
Had a doctor perform the wrong test, which scared her senseless for a bunch of years
Had to deliver two healthy babies by emergency c-section – couldn’t have her perfect births
Lost relatives to spiritual and physical death
Went through 18 months of infertility after having two children successfully
Lost some cartilage on one side of her knee
Has chronic environmental allergies to everything, including most animals
Gets pneumonia or some other respiratory infection once a year from colds
Has a couple ex-friends who won’t talk to her due to her infuriating stupidity in her young adult years
Has had other friends get caught in serious sins
Has occasionally been treated selfishly and not loved the way believers should love one another
Has a daughter with a massive amount of food allergies – none that are life-threatening, but all that lend itself to obnoxious hives and maybe vomiting
Has had to move a little bit often, and leave churches a couple times
Doesn’t make money on her novels…
Because her novels are overtly Christian, and the world isn’t quite down with that
Had to have Accutane because the acne went on FOREVER. And, even now, in adulthood, some of it has come back
Has been insulted on her physical appearance…
Maybe because she’s never at a perfect weight, but always has those last 15 pounds she’d love to lose…
And what do you know? Finds out she has gestational diabetes in her recent pregnancy, and probably some insulin resistance, which probably caused her infertility to begin with…
Therefore, has to give up regular Mountain Dew *sob*
Woot! That’s my LIFE Trial List! I put ALL of those on there so that you can hopefully identify with one or two or five or all of them. See? I’m a normal human being like you. Please tell me Paul isn’t laughing up in glory. No offense to anyone whose list is identical to mine, but it’s kind of measly.
What do you do when you’re the “normal friend” with the normal, daily life trials?
The person who doesn’t have much to say or help to give out because you’ve not gone through much of anything that interesting – or that every other Christian hasn’t gone through to some extent?
And sometimes you wish you could trade in the whole group of the small guys for one big, God-glorifying trial that’s over a few days after it begins but makes you this awe-inspiring Christian with a great testimony?
And then you’re ashamed of yourself for saying so, because the Elijahs and Jobs of the world look at you like, “You’re thirty years old, for grief’s sake, and have it all. Seriously?”
Okay, maybe they don’t do that, because they’re freakin’ Job, for goodness sake, and have so much love and compassion and godly character that they could drown you in it. But you’re convinced they probably are tempted to think that way about you. That they’re secretly wringing their hands at home, staring at your Facebook posts, and hating your guts. Right?
I have a dear person in my life whose short years are littered with a few, scattered, mediocre trials.
“I kind of had a crush on someone but they didn’t like me back.”
“I have some big fears.”
“I didn’t make the grades in college that I liked.”
“My managers didn’t treat me well.”
“Someone close to me moved away.”
But this person has completely walked away from the Lord. They can’t see beyond their own suffering, which they see as horrendously awful, even though very few in their life have any clue what would warrant their dramatic, victim response.
The little ongoing things are REAL, folks. They’re sneaky. They creep in and go on and on and on, making us think our life is less than perfect, will never BE perfect, and drive us crazy with their prickly itchiness. Sure, we may not have lost our entire family to death or been tortured for our faith or be stricken as a paraplegic, but things are still NOT RIGHT. And, as pathetic as we can feel, those things linger day after day after day and break down the joy that we’re supposed to have.
I’m going to introduce a radical concept: all trials are trials.
Call out! Ask for help. Reach out. Ask for prayer. Get godly advice. Don’t be ashamed.
Sure there’s some validity to saying, “Wow, I’m a stupid, babyish ninny. Get a grip and move on with life, and don’t let these little things bother you.” But I really don’t think that’s always helpful or productive, and few human beings are in that kind of place. And God totally gets that. You don’t hear him calling us “stupid, babyish ninnies.” God only gives us the trials He knows we can survive and also come out the other end (1 Corinthians 10:13). So for some, those may seem “smaller” but there’s no belittling comparison scale in the kingdom of God.
And His GRACE is sufficient for ALL of them.
If you or I are really struggling in a little Martha trial (“My sister drives me NUTS, Lord. Make her clean house and play host with me!”) chances are, that’s where my spiritual idols are. And the feeling of being used as a slave by one’s lazy sister, whether the right perspective or not, has the same capacity of driving us away from the Lord as the massive shooting of one’s whole family does for someone else.
DON’T let that make you feel small, pathetic, or worthless. All things that make us believe that God is making a mistake (Martha: “Jesus, why are you letting her SIT there? Jesus, do something differently!”), all of those things that make us doubt that God is good, drive us from Him. And, before you know it, your “mediocre list” has become a gigantic battleground for the devil. It’s a fight for your very soul.
Can I highly, highly, highly recommend One Thousand Gifts, which I’m re-reading for the 2nd or 3rd time? Ann Voskamp is a very, very average homeschool mom and housewife. She had her one “big tragedy” in young childhood when she was hardly old enough to even get it. But, besides that, her trials have been run of the mill. Compared to anyone else maybe. However, Ann saw that bitterness, ingratitude, and a coldness to God were sneaking in right under her nose while she washed dishes and did laundry and made dinner for the millionth time day after day. And, in beautiful, poetic words, she explores the beauty of all of life – everything God gives – the great and the impossible. And how her entire life’s perspective changed.
This Christmas I asked for butcher paper. Yep, this giant, larger-than-life roll. My sweet mother-in-law, without question, went and bought it for me, and it sits under my tree like a giant possibility of gleaming white.
I know what my very first use of it is going to be – the making of a floor to ceiling list. Of gratitude. That the Conte family can walk by and add to at any time.
So that those little bugs don’t get in the way – my shoulder is aching again as I type this, and I’m really, really hankering for a piece of holiday pecan pie that I shouldn’t eat. (Man alive. Die, taste buds, die! You cruel villains!) Because those little bugs grow and grow and grow in our hearts to become the most giant of Godzillas. To become life or death to our souls and our First Love (Revelation 2:4).
So no one is a “minor sufferer” at all. Even giving up the Mountain Dew can be a giant
battle that leaves you a little breathless, a bit bruised, and more surrendered for the kingdom of Christ. Hey, if you’re going through a sugar detox, come to me, and I will WEEP with you, bro!
It all matters in the Great Fight that is this Christian life.