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Old words, new meaning.

January 18, 2012

I have been reading some Spurgeon lately and ran across this little message:

“Perhaps, O tried soul, the Lord is doing this to develop thy graces. There are some of thy graces which would never be discovered if it were not for thy trials. Dost thou not know that thy faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter? Love is too often like a glow-worm, showing but little light except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness. Hope itself is like a star-not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of his children’s graces, to make them shine the better. It was but a little while ago that on thy knees thou wast saying, “Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith.” Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?-for how canst thou know that thou hast faith until thy faith is exercised? Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery, real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials. God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains his soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long mile with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which thou art passing? Is not the Lord bringing out your graces, and making them grow? Is not this the reason why he is contending with you?

“Trials make the promise sweet; Trials give new life to prayer; Trials bring me to his feet, Lay me low, and keep me there.”

It is rare that I find a piece of literature that so succinctly speaks to current struggles. I have never been in a place that so violently pursues the theft of joy as this place filled with these people does. If I’m not careful that reality breeds a form of resentment and unbridled rage in me that matures into ideas and outlooks wholly inconsistent with what I know to be true. More precisely, it makes God look completely worthless as he does not seem to be of any help, and having any interaction with Him just a waste of air and precious time needed to lead my Marines.

Out here, it only matters that you accomplish the mission. If you are incompetent, guess how many people care how deep your faith is? nobody. You’re useless. And as God has seemed unresponsive to all my pleads to keep my men safe, and despite my many deep searches through the scriptures for comfort that still evades me, I am tempted to throw my faith in the “not important” pile as it seems that God has decided to sit this one out. If He is no help, then He needs to stay out of my way.

At least that’s how I feel. Yet as I have learned from hard-fought experience, feelings are very rarely vehicles to find sound guidance and council in. They are deceptive above all things and will unfailingly ruin those who follow them without thought or consideration. The majority of my foolish decisions were emotion-based, or involved alcohol, usually both, as one begets the other.

So I read this 200 year old devotion by a man who could have not comprehended its application for a young Lieutenant in Afghanistan reading it long after its author is long since dead and buried. Yet,  its truth is no less relevant. Nor is its sobering reminder that as I fight a physical war, a spiritual one rages just as fiercely, and produces just as many casualties.

Spurgeon caused me to remember all the horrible training I went through, and in turn all the horrible training I submitted my Marines to so that when the test comes they are prepared, and prepared they are. Therefore, compassion does not always equal comfort, nor joy, nor ease, nor provision. Instead, since we are in a fight, compassion takes the form of loneliness, trial, grief, strife, stress, imposition of will and hard knocks so that when you emerge on the other side you are prepared for that which life has in store for you. You are ready for a fight.

God has not left, nor is he unfamiliar with the state of my heart. Instead I contend that he is staying quiet because I am still taking the test.

Ok world, show me what you’ve got. But know I will not go gently, and I am not alone.

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