Monday, March 5, 2018

Perspectives, Part 3 of 3: Sweet Trouble

1 Peter 4:12 - Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Recently I heard an African pastor share that the question to be asked when facing trouble is "how can this trouble sweeten me?"

Sweet trouble.

How we avoid trouble.  How we dislike trouble.  How we grumble during trouble.  How anxious and nervous and sad and depressed and weary and even burned out we get during trouble.  (How well I know each of those categories!)

How surprised we are at trouble, despite the reminder of 1 Peter 4:12.  "How can this happen?"  "How can this happen to me?"  "How can God let this happen?"

When the person speaking of "sweet trouble" is a Nigerian pastor who has known trouble and has seen trouble, those words strike deep.  The person saying those words has not lived a cushie life of ease.  I remember being in Egypt and listening to them singing a hymn of faith while in trial in Arabic, and tears welling in my eyes as I felt the oppression for Christians in that country yet hearing them sing about the sweetness of trouble.

We don't usually think of trouble as sweet until it is long behind us and we can look back to see how it has shaped us, or how God brought good out of the trouble.

We don't often associate trouble with the participating in the sufferings of Christ.

As I look back over my life, I see so many episodes of sweet trouble.  Trouble that could have been designed to break me down, God was able to use to build me up.  I certainly didn't see it as sweet most of the time.  

Recently, I looked in the face of a dear friend, whose son is struggling with cancer, and heard her words "I am heartbroken for him and yet I hold on to joy."

The perspective of sweet trouble.

When trouble is viewed as sweet, the opportunity is there for it to evolve into something beautiful.  When trouble is not viewed in this way, the potential is there for people to become bitter, cynical, ugly.

A friend said to me last week, as we processed some sweet trouble, "God fixes a fix to fix you.  If you try to fix your fix before you're fixed, He'll fix another fix to really fix you."

Sweet trouble.  We don't pray for it.  But our perspective can certainly help us go through it.