This past Sunday I was sitting on my Papaw and Nanu’s porch in a comfortable seat facing the love of my life on the most beautiful day of the year. After a great morning of teaching, working, and playing with so many eager smiling faces in children’s church, I sat back just to take in the beauty of this great Lord’s Day. Relaxation at its peak in southeastern Kentucky. I needed to be working on a powerpoint presentation for Monday, but the beautiful sight of acres upon acres of farmland kept me outdoors. It was pure bliss to just chat with this amazing woman while drinking cold water and sweet tea (Erica’s favorite; with lemon of course). I sank back into that chair thinking to myself, “This day could not get any better.” Well, I was right. Out of the corner of our eyes we see our “wonderful” dog Simba running as fast as he could up the hill from the barn. We had let him out to run around a bit since he had been kept up all week. Here he comes, flying up to the porch with that silly grin on his face. Expecting to see his beautiful white and gray coat flowing through the wind, I hear Erica say, “Oh no!” She had seen what was blocked from my sight. Simba had evidently been rolling around in, as we call in the south, “cow pies”. Needless to say, he was covered in cow dung and was filthy. All on the left side of his upper body he was covered. Our first reaction: laughter. We could not help but laugh at this crazy animal as he continued to run around as if nothing was wrong. He was dirty and filthy, yet he seemed to not even notice and definately didn’t care. Before we could get a hold of him to clean him up, he was off again! Simba sprinted back to his original “spot.” This time we watched him. We were beggin him to stop for we knew what he was getting himself into. He was about to jump right back into the filth of that cow pasture. Simba enjoyed it. It was fun for him to get dirty for the time being. At that moment, all he wanted was to roll around in those cow pies. We witnessed Simba leap onto the ground and begin to roll. Our hands went to our heads in frustration and amazement at this crazy creature. Again, laughter was the only appropriate response.
Simba darted back to where we were and just layed down on the porch next to us. He was almost proud to be covered in filth. He had ruined his clean coat and yet he was just grinning up at us. We immediately sprung into action. I put his leash on him and walked him into his lot. We gathered dog shampoo, two buckets of water, gloves, and some nerve. I must admit, Erica took on the dirty job of cleaning Simba while I held him down. She was brave as she took off her jewelry and put those rubber gloves on. I poured shampoo in her hands and we poured water on him. We scrubbed and washed him for 20-30 minutes. For the most part, Simba behaved, at least while the filth was being mixed with the cleaning shampoo. While Erica scrubbed him, Simba just thought he was being pet. However, when the true cleansing took place, Simba freaked out, to say the least. I went outside the lot and turned the hose on. I brought the water hose close to the lot and started to spray Simba down. It was a fight from start to finish with this crazy dog. He jumped and tried to run and layed down and squirmed all over that lot while I was spraying him. In Simba’s eyes, we were torchering him. This was a time of tremendous suffering on his life when in reality, we were merely cleaning him to make him good and pure and clean. Simba didn’t understand why he was being treated this way. He thought we loved him and cared for him, yet we were spraying him and causing him discomfort. How could we do such a thing? In reality though, because we loved him we wanted him to be clean since we knew what being dirty would lead to for him. His coat would have become matted and if left like that for a lengthened period of time, Simba could have gotten sick. We loved him so we wanted him to be clean. Although this process was a form of suffering to him, we knew it was best for him. Simba needed to trust us.
Reflecting on this experience, I see now more fully how God preserves and sanctifies us through suffering. If you ever wonder why God is allowing or possibly causing suffering to enter your life, consider these passages:
“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 nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)
“…If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful…” ( 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
“Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Timothy 2:10)
I left that day enlightened as I saw more clearly how we typically respond to trials given us by the Lord to purify our faith and produce endurance in us. We act like dogs. More pointedly, we act like wild dogs. If you have ever tried to give a dog a bath, you understand what I mean. They are defiant and rebellious. They will not listen to you and will fight to get away. They seem to be angry with you and obviously do not trust you during the trial. We do the same thing toward God. When he causes trials to come into our lives which involves some form of suffering, we are defiant, rebellious, and we question and become angry with God. We either limit His sovereignty or we question His goodness. When we behave in this way, we imitate dogs refusing a bath. While God is sanctifying us and creating an enduring faith in us for good, we turn from Him and obviously do not trust Him. We try to find our own way out as we fight and sometimes even give up.
Our response to suffering should not be that of a dog, but rather that of a saint. We should “count it all joy” when we go through suffering for we can know God has intended it for good. We intend a bath for a dog’s benefit. God intends suffering for our benefit and even our joy in Him. These trials that you may be going through are intended to build steadfastness. Those who exhibit steadfastness will be blessed and be given the “crown of life.” Enduring through suffering strengthens your faith as you are being sanctified and made more like Christ. Do not run toward the filth that this world has to offer. Do not jump into worldy “cow pies” for momentary enjoyment. Do not settle for the joys the filthy world has to offer. Instead, run to God. Trust in His sovereignty. As you are being “cleaned” on a daily basis through His Word and through suffering, rejoice in Him! James tells us not to rejoice in worldly filth but rather in suffering! Trust God during suffering for He intends it for your benefit. Endure to the end brothers and sisters, for your sake and the sake of the nations. Thousands have yet to hear His name. Endure all things so that all people groups of all nations may hear the redeeming gospel of Christ, believe in Him, and “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Refrain from imitating a filthy dog. Run toward imitating our suffering Servant and pure Savior, Jesus Christ.
In suffering: Love God. Trust God. Endure. Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!
Scripture Reading: James 1
Key Verses: James 1:2-4
By His Grace & For His Glory