I love old people who twinkle. There are a few of them scattered through every church. Some of them are silver-haired widows with names like Ethel, Myrtle and Florence, and others are elderly men, maybe with canes, who pause to let ladies pass and act as church ushers as long as they can stand. Some may be your neighbors, or the patient man in the gray sedan who stops, and waves for you to be able to pull out into heavy traffic. They are the salt of the earth.
This contingency, in any church congregation, is most likely to say that they are praying for you, and are most likely to actually follow through and pray diligently for your cause. They are gems, sprinkled throughout the sanctuary on any given Sunday, some of them sitting in their same, self-assigned seats for decades. All of them come and go from church with the intent of blessing and giving of themselves through kindness.
These mature Christian people don’t twinkle because they have had lives of ease and luxury. The opposite is actually true. Their lives have been full and blessed, but they have also been rough. Their stories are usually condensed to a sentence or two, and are told by their relatives or other people, so you know their stories by reputation, and less by personal testimony.
These mature Christian people don’t twinkle because they have had lives of ease and luxury. The opposite is actually true.
Some of us sing worship choruses inviting refining fires and request His making and molding, because we want to be more like Jesus. Of course we do. But if God put it all out there, and we knew what the refining fires would actually look like, what they would be, would we be likely to sign on the dotted line? In actuality, we are more likely to live our lives trying to dodge trials and tribulations like bullets. We certainly want to rush through those tribulations, to see them gone like a breeze, leaving no scent or ruffle, or evidence of calamity.
Peter says something shocking that counters our natural reactions to the things that sideswipe us. In I Peter 4:12, he says, “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.”
The original words used in the Greek for this verse draw out it’s solemn meaning. It translates to say, “Don’t be surprised at the trial, testing, temptation, calamity or affliction (peirasmos/(pi-ras-mos’) that has come to test you, as though something new, novel, foreign (xenos/xen’-os) were happening to you.”
The implication is that we have had rough times before, and we will, again.
Jesus told us, in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus is reminding us to keep the big picture in mind, always. Paul further explains to us, in Romans 5:3-5, that these trials are actually quite productive;
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Jesus, Peter and Paul all have the same message; troubles will certainly come, but they will be used as refining fires that will change, and improve who we are. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, Peter further explains that our ultimate goal in our sufferings is to glorify God. Here, he says;
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
At the very least, they, too, may become weary of our trials. We hear all sorts of diagnosis and suggestions. Are we praying enough? Did we sin? Maybe we should stop doing what we are doing and do something else instead. Perhaps we have a bad attitude and God needs to keep at us, until we finally learn. We have all heard variations of this. People want to help. When they can’t, they may throw up their hands and move on. What we all must do is to continue to wait, and to pray.
One of the most difficult things is life is a trial that won’t seem to go away. A severely disabled child, chronic illness, a difficult marriage, extended joblessness, and so many other troubles, can leave us weary from running a marathon. Relational issues, vocational troubles, financial problems and confusion regarding decisions and our futures can all turn into long seasons in the desert. Sometimes we are waylaid by a series of hard events, one after another, sometimes overlapping. Some of us have had many desert seasons.
If you are in the desert long enough, you usually end up sitting on a rock, surrounded by cacti, lizards and lots of sand, all by yourself. God will use this, too, as He stretches your faith in Him and teaches you to depend fully on Him. Other people have thrown in the towel regarding your situation, because they are tired of it and can’t figure it out, so they move on. You can’t. It’s your life. Desert seasons, also called valley seasons, may last so long that you may want to give up. But we need to hold on.
If you are in the desert long enough, you usually end up sitting on a rock, surrounded by cacti, lizards and lots of sand, all by yourself.
“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
“A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah. You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”
“Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes.”
Isaiah 43:19 reminds us that when things seem hopeless, God is working behind the scenes. This verse says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Faith always asks us to believe beyond what is guaranteed.
Faith always asks us to believe beyond what is guaranteed. Romans 12:12 tells us, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Your season in the desert will end. Sometimes the situation itself improves or changes. Desert times sometimes result in miracles happening. Always, you are changed. You will be refined. You will be prepared for what is next.
If you reject your trials by giving up, giving in, compromising or agreeing with the enemy by believing that God’s goodness is in question, you will be right where you are when you began when it’s all over. It will have all been in vain, in that nothing came out of your trial(s). It’s important that we agree with what God is doing and trust Him. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is true to His word.
It is a truly good day when you realize that things have changed, and you can move on. Coming out of the desert, like all transitions, can leave us uncertain. It can be overwhelming, but exciting to understand that God actually did a work in us! We never knew we needed these changes, but we are so grateful and glad that He got us through. The fruit of the Spirit may be more evident in how we see things, how we relate, what we want to do. Wait a minute, we think, the enemy is defeated! We are triumphant. It is a glorious day!
The fruit of the Spirit may be more evident in how we see things, how we relate, what we want to do.
This all happens as He prepares us for the next big thing that He has for us. This resting time is usually in proportion to the length of our trial(s). The longer you persevered, the more rest you may need. Accept that God is giving you adjustment time and don’t force things to happen. You may hear Him more easily, outside of the desert. When we are refined, we are sometimes more in tune to His voice. Rest also gives us more time and energy for praise, which strengthens us spiritually and gives God glory for all that’s ahead.
It’s never helpful to think our most recent trial will be our last. God gives us valleys, but He gives us mountaintop experiences, too. There are no deserts, no valleys, if there are no mountaintops. If we stay the same person and never grow, we aren’t stronger to scale higher mountains, leap higher obstacles and achieve greater things.
Psalm 30:11 is our victory song; “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” If you have been through the desert and are out, you know the joy that comes after a season of perseverance. You will have not just tasted, but will have feasted, on God’s goodness and grace.
If you are still in the desert, you will come out. Even if you can’t imagine it now, He will make “beauty from (your) ashes.” (Isaiah 61:3) You will dance as you glance back at the desert that you left behind. When we submit to God’s refining process for a lifetime of changing seasons, we will stand out. Some of us will smile from the contentment of a job well-done, and to those around us, we will twinkle, and some of us will glow