It's important for us all.
Right at the top of reasons why so many leave evangelical Christianity is an inability to reason through why God allows tough stuff to happen to good people.
Others simply haven't settled it personally, but hope for the best...and struggle (remember prickly-people from last week) when hardships come. It makes them bitter, not better.
Suffering, trials, persecution, difficulty, desert places, dark nights of the soul...these things happen just because, well, LiFe hApPeNs.
James, the younger brother of Jesus, made it clear through the Spirit's inspired words:
"Count it all joy...WHEN you meet trials of various kinds..." (James 1:2)
It's all about the word "when/whenever."
It means just that.
James didn't write "if."
He didn't say "just in case."
There is no "possibly" involved.
We will all experience one-or-another, or any combination, of the list above.
Knowing what we believe and why we believe it, as Jesus-followers, is crucial.
I've shared this story before, so forgive me if you recognize it and, simply, skip ahead.
After arriving in Kenya, where we were going to be serving as missionaries, our first night lasted days.
Jet lag hit hard.
Our kids were young, and no matter how hard we tried to keep them awake during their first day on the continent, they just couldn't make it, and promptly fell asleep.
So, when it came time to go to sleep...they just couldn't.
I certainly wanted to...
But...Mandy, especially, heard every noise and each little creak of our new home, which left her afraid and wide-eyed-and-bushy-tailed (at 5 years old).
I gave up trying to stay in our bed, and joined her in the little twin bed our hosts had borrowed and set up for her.
I tried everything I could think of to help her fall into dream-land: songs, stories, questions and answers, listing a few of her favorite things (thank you, Sound of Music)...nothing worked.
Truly, that night was darker, longer, and more frightening for my sweet babe than I ever could have guessed.
By 6:00 AM as the sun began to peak over the horizon and light started to brighten her room, I noticed her eyes growing heavy, and just as she began to slip into a deep slumber, she briefly opened them and softly said, "Mommy, you know what's not so scary about Kenya?"
"No, baby...what's not so scary about Kenya?"
...and with that, sleep finally descended.
The psalmist agrees with Mandy.
I take great consolation in both verse and story.
Nights come and go.
There is always a morning to follow.
Some nights are darker and longer than others; but, even where Polar Night occurs for 24 hours straight, morning still comes....eventually.
(Characteristic polar night blue twighlight, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway located at 78 degrees north!)
This truth is a hope to which we cling, when night seems to last for days; when every creak and loud noise causes our hearts to quake:
Morning always comes...and with it...joy!
Hard seasons end.
Desert paths and prickly things can still turn green and flower.
Seasons change...after winter comes spring...every year!
Better yet - it's not for naught.
Something also comes with these temporary trials, and, it's generally preparation for something we can't even imagine (more next week)!
There is a work being done within that in the midst of the difficulty, we can't see now; but, there is no question we'll see it later.
All God does in the midst of our desert places works for our transformation to be more like Him...
Even though night seems to last forever, Paul says this about our afflictions: in light of eternity, they are simply "momentary."
Compared to the work they perform within us: they are "light."
In a trial right now? Hang on - morning's coming!