It had been a particularly tough first few months of the year. My wife and I had become increasingly aware that our son was not going to make it into mainstream school. We sat in a number of education healthcare planning meetings, listening to one missed target after another. As parents, we had been saying for quite some time that he should be referred to specialist school but getting that referral was proving a challenging mountain to scale. On top of this, a pretty routine operation for our son had turned into a procedure with further complications and we were told that he would now need a further three operations over the coming fourteen months.
What else could go wrong?
The phone rang. It was our local mechanic. Our car had only gone in for the handbrake to be fixed, now I was being told that there was £600+ worth of repairs to be done. I felt my heart sink and I felt despair beginning to set in.
A few days earlier I had been talking to a very wise mate of mine. I just wanted to explain to him all my woes and difficulties. I wanted him to give me the ‘quick’ solution, the ultimate words of wisdom.
Instead he read the following verses:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I have to be honest, there has not been a whole lot of counting our trials as pure joy. It has been more like pushing through and just waiting for things to get that little bit easier. I have read these verses many times over the years, but I think all I have ever done is give them intellectual assent at best.
But then my mate went one step further. He went on to say that in every situation in life, there is a narrow path that leads to life and that is where we find the pure joy of becoming everything God ever intended us to be.
I have since been meditating on these verses from Matthew 7:13-14. I have always interpreted them as narrow is the path that leads to salvation and that is absolutely true. The truth is that if we are to find peace with God, then we have to embrace the narrow path that leads to Christ through his death on the cross and ultimately through his resurrection. However, when we dedicate our lives to following Christ, we are also called to live our entire lives only on the narrow path that leads to life. It is as we learn to do this that we can begin to experience pure joy even as we go through the various trials of life.
For so many of us, as followers of Christ, we can sometimes live as ‘practical agnostics’. By this I mean, we go through the stuff of life, the tough stuff, the painful stuff and even the great stuff without ever asking where God is in our unique set of circumstances? Where is the pure joy? What does God have for me in this moment? In what ways will I become mature and complete, not lacking in anything through this?
I was talking to one of my colleagues about this finding the narrow path in every situation in life just after I had the news of my £600+ car bill. We both agreed that it just feels so hard to live with a different attitude towards our struggles. So, it will be little surprise to you that the question we both had was this: how on earth do we find the narrow path in every life situation, that pure joy and just how do we avoid the drama and the panic that so often, naturally, sets in?
So, my quest is to find some insights into this. On a personal level, to stop living like a practical agnostic. To learn to trust God, more and more, in every situation, both in the good and in the bad. I feel convinced that this is something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally but is something we all need to learn! I am also totally convinced that this is simply another part of our discipleship and our growth! More than this, I am convinced that this is massively important if we are to genuinely reach all our mates for Jesus, because ultimately the world turns to Christ based on our testimony, the testimony of a life that used to be lived without God but is now lived intentionally in relationship with him!
In my next blog, I want to explore some of the disciplines that we can use to help us find the narrow path in every life situation and how that can massively impact the way we are able to witness to our mates.