Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3)
My daughter is now at West Point Military Academy going through basic training, otherwise known as “beast.” It’s a very strenuous six weeks in which the new cadets develop their physical endurance, how to keep their mouths shut and take orders, how to use artillery, develop war and survival skills, and to exhibit respect to their superiors and fellow cadets. It even includes a short time in a gas chamber. The motto at West Point is “Honor, duty, country.”
For most new cadets, it’s a complete shock to their system. My daughter is no exception. Even while she tried to mentally prepare beforehand, it’s not easy to keep a positive outlook.
She’s now been there for a little less than two weeks. We’ve each been writing to each other every day, because they can make no phone calls. Yesterday, I received perhaps my most prized letter yet. She said that she had gotten a pocket New Testament and a book of daily verses and explanations. (I had asked her to take her Bible, but she said it would be too heavy to carry around.) She said she’s been drawing closer to God, and that He has shown her that He has been with her every step of the way.
Over the last few years, my daughter has drifted. Questioned her faith. And let her busy life of school, sports and friends get between herself and God. Regardless of how much I would talk to her about it, share my faith with her, and try to speak the Word into her life, she seemed heedless. She would go to church with me when she wasn’t playing in a tournament or having softball practice (which, grrrrr, most sports organizations tend to do–schedule practice on Sunday mornings), but I wasn’t sure how much information was getting into her heart.
But all along, God had a plan–a marvelous plan that would pull her back to Him. He didn’t place her at just any college. He placed her in a college that has one of the most rigorous programs around–one that tests the cadets mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s a place where their mettle is tested in the hot fire of adversity, and they have to reach for something beyond themselves to get through.
When God allows adversity into our lives, we often squirm, get angry, and question why. But what we must remember is that God is in control. There is no aspect of our lives He is not in control of. Nothing falls through the cracks…we can’t sit and wonder whether He’s aware that we’re on the side of the freeway on a hot summer day with a flat tire. Of course He is. He has allowed adversity into our lives to produce a desired result–or to set up perfect timing for a greater good. If He didn’t want us on the side of the freeway, you can be absolutely assured your tire would not have sustained damage. I know this from personal experience, because there have been many times when I should have been on the side of the freeway, but God kept my car together until I was at a safe place to break down. (I have spent my own share of time on the side of the highway, however.)
It’s only in the hot crucible of testing that God is able to burn away those things that we have heaped on ourselves that stand between us and God…things like pride, arrogance, anger, bitterness, independence, disrespect, ungratefulness. And when these things are burned away, and we are stripped of everything–down to our most naked selves–God can do a beautiful work and begin to clothe us with the beautiful traits of humility, love, forebearance, trust, forgiveness, faith, kindness and goodness.
In her letter, my daughter said she misses home. She said it rained there in New York, and it reminded her of home. I had to smile. She has never been thrilled with living in the Pacific Northwest, where it rains a lot, and the temperature is cool more often than not. But now that she is in the midst of the crucible, a longing and gratefulness for home–rain, overcast skies and evergreens–is emerging.
I can see it…her spirit is becoming more beautiful with every passing day.