Affliction. Trials. Who in the world enjoys them? I know it’s not something I have enjoyed. At least not up to this point in my life.
As I continue to read Andrew Murray’s book, “Abide in Christ,”God speaks to me right where I am. It’s really amazing! Today, it’s all about the affliction and trials that I face.
“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:2
Murray writes, “In the whole plant world there is not a tree to be found so specifically suited to the image of man in his relation to God as the vine. There is none of which the fruit and its juice are so full of spirit, so quickening and stimulating. But there is also none of which the natural tendency is so entirely evil–none where the growth is so ready to run into wood that is utterly worthless except for the fine. Of all plants, not one needs the pruning knife so unsparingly and so unceasingly.”
This really encourages me, especially when I experience struggles and trials and affliction and the like. As Murray writes, “And so He prepared His people, who are so ready when trial comes to be shaken in their confidence, and to moved from their abiding in Christ, to hear in each affliction the voice of a messenger that comes to call them to abide still more closely. Yes believer, most especially in times of trial, abide in Christ.” These trials and afflictions have a divine purpose. God is using them for my good. They are actually an answer to prayer. I did ask God to help me to truly abide in Christ.
So when I go through stuff, it is not punishment or pain without purpose. It’s about God’s love for me that He is pruning me to grow closer to Him and stronger. It’s about bearing more fruit. That old children’s song is really true! “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”
The revelation and reminder for me is that when I go through stuff, it’s a reminder of God’s love and it’s God’s love in action as He uses the stuff to prune and prepare me to bear more fruit. That’s a whole different perspective for me. It makes James 1 so much clearer and more meaningful to me, especially verse 2.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
“Dear Christian, in affliction abide in Christ. When you see it coming, meet it in Christ; when it has come, feel that you are more in Christ than in it, for He is nearer you than affliction ever can be; when it is passing, still abide in Him. And let the one thought of the Savior, as He speaks of the pruning, and the one desire of the Father, as He does the pruning, be yours too: “Every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Andrew Murray
As I let that truth soak into my heart, a memory comes to mind. When it was time to welcome our firstborn, Michelle, into the world, I was excited and nervous. We get to the hospital and suddenly it becomes very real. We are going to have our baby! They lead us into the birthing room, which looked like a nice hotel room. But they couldn’t fool me, it was still a hospital room where all the linens smell like blood to me. Yes I know it’s my imagination going wild…again! After a number of hours go by with no baby launching, the doctor recommended sedating Jo, letting her sleep some, to let things regroup. They sent me home to rest and said they would call when things picked up. Now let me tell you, I was stressed. “What is going on?” ” Why?” “I never saw this on any of the Lamaze class videos. Maybe I should have watched them better instead of being bored out of my mind!” I got home and prayed for God’s help. After awhile, I fell asleep. Then hearing the phone ring, I jumped out of bed, picked up the phone and got ready to go back to the hospital. It was on! Putting down the phone I hear voices. No, not that kind! Voices of people singing. I had never heard people singing in our condo before. Ever! But that afternoon I did. And they were singing an old hymn. They were singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I stopped to see if I was just imagining things. Maybe it was the radio. As I listened, it was clear that it was people singing live that great hymn. It was so surreal. I sat down and just listened and soaked it in for a bit. I got up, clothed in God’s peace. I get back to the hospital and after just one or two pushes, we welcomed Michelle Morimoto into the world. It was amazing. I was amazed. Even Jo was amazed, after going through her first delivery. The nurses were amazed. They said, “This is great. This is a new one. Sleep delivery.”
Yes, I need to remember, “Dear Christian, in affliction abide in Christ.”