“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (proving) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).
Have you ever had a really terrible, awful, miserable day---week, month, or even year? In truth, we have all experienced difficult times. When trouble comes, how far do you sink before feeling there is no one to talk to – no one who really understands or cares? For many, that happens quickly. These can be trying times when even a mustard seed of faith is hard to find.
In Exploring Hebrews, John Phillips says: “Faith is a kind of spiritual “sixth sense” that enables the believer to take a firm hold upon the unseen world, and bring it into the realm of experience. All our senses do this. The eye takes hold upon the light waves that pulsate through space and make real to a person the things he sees. The ear picks up the sound waves and translates them into hearing.
Still, trials by fire can test even those who seem to have “asbestos –coated” faith.
A number of prominent Biblical figures went through severe trials, testing and tears. Paul “despaired of life.” (1 Corinthians 1:8); Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet,” shedding tears over the sins of unrepentant people (Jeremiah 8), and Elijah, at his wit’s end, sat under a fig tree ready to give up. (I Kings 19:4). Many were brought to the brink of despair, and even “singed by the fire,” in the process.
Yet they were overcomers, because our “First Responder” controlled even the most extreme heat. And like them, we are covered by the loving hand of our comforter God.
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
In Exploring 2 Corinthians, John Phillips reminds us: “God knows how to comfort us because He is a Father. What a blessed name for God, a name almost unique to the New Testament and a name taught to us by the Lord Himself.” And that “He is the God of all comfort. That is to say, He has an absolute monopoly on it. All true and lasting comfort comes from Him.”
This does not negate the very real pain of divorce, a cancer diagnosis, financial collapse and loneliness. Being human, we can even struggle to believe He is there when bad things happen. That said, as Christians, we can also do a great disservice to ourselves and others in need, when we fail to acknowledge that pain is real---and it is not always the result of a lack of faith.
I wonder how often we miss some of God’s plan for us because we hurry to calm every storm, escape pain and get to the “rainbow” part of life. According to Scripture, the Furnace of Affliction is not sent to simply strengthen and fortify (temper) us. Refiner’s fire can also help us understand others who experience similar trials so we can be there for them with Godly insight and hope. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2
Remember, the difference in sympathy and empathy is that sympathy requires head knowledge, while empathy includes both knowledge and understanding through personal experience. We identify most closely with those who have “been through it themselves.”
“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).
As our Father directs us through life’s fire storms, it is to our advantage in challenges both big and small, to slow down and trust that a little further down the road, we will see that the pain had a purpose, and the waiting room was designed to lead us in the direction of His greater plan.
Don’t give up, never let go for “It is God who worketh in you both to will and do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).