A young man went to an older Christian and asked, “will you pray that I would have more faith?” So they knelt together, and the older man began to pray, “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send him tribulation in the afternoon; send him—” Just then the young man blurted out, “No, not tribulation! I asked to have more faith.” “I know,” said the wise man, “but tribulation is what increases our faith.”
It was the Apostle Peter who taught, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
If you are facing difficulties, know that it’s not random, but rather the Lord is building patience and perseverance in you. Although it’s tough for the moment, the end result is glorious.
Whether we like it or not, it’s the tragedies of life, much more so than the triumphs, that drive us most quickly to Christ. I’ve often said that Jesus is very fond of our desperation. It’s a dependency upon Him, not upon ourselves, that goes hand-in-hand with the Gospel. It’s the moment when our self-sufficiency empties out that His abundant provision comes marching in. Only then does prayer become the most important thing we can do, rather than the standard “the least I can do is pray.” Seriously, think about how often that expression rolls off our tongues: “prayer is the least I can do.”
By the grace of God, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin appears to be on the road to recovery. Just over a week ago, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after tackling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Medical personnel immediately rushed to the field and administered CPR in front of a live TV audience and 65,000 spectators. The incident left both teams so traumatized the game was subsequently cancelled. While Hamlin’s not out of the woods, his doctors did share a hilarious story indicative of his progress: “Damar watched the game yesterday. When the opening kickoff was run back, he jumped up and down, got out of his chair, and set I think every alarm off in the ICU in the process,” the doctor said during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “But he was fine. It was just an appropriate reaction to a very exciting play.”
One observation I’ve made while visiting 3rd world countries, while we go to the phone first when calamities strike, speed-dialing the family friend who’s a physician or nurse, they are quick to go to the very throne room of God immediately. The urgency and fervency by which they plead with the Almighty is quite a site to see. Witnessing such dire dependency upon Christ alone is impressive, not to mention terribly convicting. I covet such profound faith but am admittedly reluctant to pray to receive it, knowing the manner in which it will most likely come.
What would it take for us to run to Jesus before all else rather than the usual remedies at our disposal? Quite possibly a calamity like the one that played out on national TV. When was the last time you witnessed thousands upon thousands of individuals spontaneously break out into prayers of desperation on and off the field? Or much less being led in prayer by a bold ESPN analyst like Dan Orlovsky? I, like you, regret that it takes tragedies to drive us down to our knees, but that clearly appears to be the case.
Do you remember what happened after Jesus’s alarming comments about His body and blood in John 6? On hearing it, many of the disciples said, “This statement is very unpleasant; who can listen to it?” “And as a result of this, many of His disciples left and would no longer walk with Him.” This sounds eerily familiar to what’s been transpiring in our country as of late: “Many left and would no longer walk with Him”). But then Jesus asked those who remained, “you do not want to leave also, do you?” To which Peter replied with a stark tone of desperation, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In essence, where do we turn when there’s nowhere else to turn? We turn to Christ.
I would never wish hardships of any type on anybody in a million years. Period. But after 30 years in ministry, I’ve enough sense to recognize what transpires before radical spiritual growth spurts: adversity, setbacks, heartaches, trials, and the like.
In the days ahead, the most we can do, by no means the least we can do, is pray for a complete recovery for Hamlin. And maybe, just maybe, this is the type of attention-getter the rest of us need to wake us up from our national spiritual slumber. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though something strange were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory you may also rejoice and be overjoyed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13