orignal blog in this series, we discussed the spiritual condition of the rocky, shallow soil. In Jesus’ parable of the soils, this soil was a metaphor for those who had shallow, undeveloped faith, a group that may be at a spiritual epidemic in the American church today. Since their faith wasn’t developed, they ended up walking away from Christ and His church.
But why does this happen? What led them to abandon their relationship with God and the message of grace found in God’s word? In the second post in the series, we addressed the problem of shallowness that wasn’t able to fend off temptation, and surrendered to a life of sin.
Yet, there is another “time of testing” which we need to address. Testing is not just temptation. It is also met in trials, difficult circumstances … Those times that proverbially try men’s souls.
Why are trials called “time of testing”? Trials are tests because they are an opportunity for us to authenticate our trust in God.
It is one thing to trust God when you are experiencing peace, prosperity and health. It is another thing to trust him when life is crumbling around you.
Isn’t that the story of Job? Satan approached God to say that the only reason Job trusted God was because God had set him up in a cushy life. Then Satan challenged that if Job lost it all he would denounce God.
Then when Job lost everything, his response was “Still will I praise Him. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Yet, that is not so easy, is it? When the doctor enters the room with a cancer diagnosis … when you find yourself single because your spouse has left you for someone else … when the “yes” you were expecting is met with a “no” … when you find yourself widowed long before you expected … when your job position is cut … when a child dies … when your spouse’s anger escalates to physical harm … and on and on and on, it isn’t so easy to just sing out, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”, is it?
Questions arise. The “Whys” shout out at you. You may even become angry at God for placing you in such a painful situation. Like David, you may shout out at God, “Why did you do this to me?”
Paul, in 2 Corinthians, tells of a thorn in the flesh which he prayed God would remove. He prayed this prayer three times (it’s unclear whether this was three specific prayers, or three periods of time in which this prayer was prominent). However, the answer always came back the same, “No.”
How do you respond to God’s “no”, when it seems like He has either turned a deaf ear to your pain, or worse that He chooses not to do anything about it?
We’ve seen people in the throes of chaos turn their back on God, haven’t we? They raise the age old question, “If God is good, why does he allow such evil to continue to exist in the world?” And if the soil is shallow and rocky, it is not too big of a jump to conclude that either God doesn’t exist, or if He does exist, He is either not good, or is powerless to do anything about our problems.
Conversely, the rest of the answer Paul received from God was “My grace is sufficient for you.” The emphasis isn’t on the pain. It isn’t on the crisis. The emphasis is turned to a sufficient God.
If your roots are deep, these questions, these times of crisis and chaos, rather than causing you to push away from God will cause you to lean into him a little more. You may not have all of the answers you seek, but you choose to place a little more trust in the certainty of His love, His power, and His presence in an uncertain time.
What can we do to remove the stones from this plot of spiritual ground that in its shallowness is unable to deal with difficulty?
Walk along with people during those pivotal circumstances, those times of trial. The company during our walks through difficult circumstances is powerful. The absences of such company can be devastating.
I recently had someone share an instance where we didn’t do this so well. We responded well initially, as the events of crisis unfolded, but we didn’t do so well in the long run. As this person struggled with their faith in the midst of crisis, they became more and more isolated from the church. Instead of continuing to walk with them through the darkness, it became easier to deal with their proxy, and occasionally ask them, “How is she doing?”
Without the support of community, this person’s faith began to dry up and wither.
We can help remove the rocks by walking with each other through these difficult times, not just the moment of tragedy, but the long unfolding trial that follows.
— Pastor Steve