I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing a dear Godly friend of mine last night. Our conversations are always laden with these nuggets of wisdom that I take away and ponder. We were discussing our marriages and children and future paths and she was sharing some of her past experiences (her two kiddos are a little older than mine and she’s been married longer than I have). As we were discussing a particular issue we’ve both struggled with she said, I prayed, God teach me, but not the hard way.
Boy, I know that prayer. Please Lord, don’t make me hit rock bottom to have my eyes opened up to what you are calling me to do. Please God, let me learn this lesson without having to crawl across hot coals to figure it out. Because both my friend and I had learned plenty of lessons the hard way. And it’s no fun. If you’ve been through that refining process, then you know. Sometimes our stubborn, know-it-all, prideful, human ways get in the way of just listening and obeying. Heck, I see it in my kids. The eldest fell off the dining room table with a heavy thud the other day (as we both panicked over the repercussions which fortunately, this time, were not serious) because, despite my repeated remonstrations, he thought it would be fun to sit high up on the dining room table. Surely he knew better than I did. Plus, his way was more fun!
When I was emailing a writing buddy of mine today about this topic, she said, Well thankfully it isn’t ALWAYS the hard way, but I seem to learn better when it is. It certainly is more MEMORABLE, isn’t it? My mom used to say, don’t pray for patience, God just might help you get it.
I have several life lessons God is teaching me right now. In the midst of my prayer I am crying out, God please teach me, but not the hard way! The hard way can be painful. The hard way can be time consuming. And the hard way often involves going places and doing things that I really don’t want to go and do. But the Bible is chock full of people who went on to do great things, people that God blessed, even though their route was, well, less than ideal. Jonah ended up in the belly of a whale – talk about the hard way. Abraham slept with a slave because he figured God couldn’t get Sarah pregnant. Moses committed murder. David committed adultery. Peter denied Christ – three times. They made foolish decisions that required them to learn the lesson of faith the hard way.
I still pray that I don’t have to learn the lessons of faith that God is teaching me the hard way. But it gives me hope to know that if, in my humanity, I fail to go where God leads because my own silly pride gets in the way, God will still teach me the lesson. It may be hard, but He can still use me. And in the end, that’s all I want.
See what Hebrews has to say about those folks who had to learn the hard way:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him….By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth….By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible… And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.