I’m going to give you a few pieces of this puzzle before I put them together for you.
4 weeks ago I sprained my ankle… badly.
Most people don’t realize this, but sprained ankles are often more painful and take longer to heal than broken ones. I sprained my ankle in as bad a way as you can. What’s worse is that the doctor who originally diagnosed it and told me my treatment (wearing a boot and using crutches) was overly optimistic in the healing time.
The doctor said I would have 2 weeks on the crutches with a boot, 3-4 more weeks in the boot without crutches, and then I’d be walking normally again.
It’s been 4 weeks and I’m still on crutches.
I’ve always loved the verse, “Count it all joy my brothers when you face trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2)
I’ve often taught this verse and made the point that James follows it up with how to get wisdom.
He’s stating the obvious: experience brings wisdom.
How do we get wisdom if we lack it?
Answer: “Ask of God who gives to all generously without reproach and it will be given to him.”
But there’s a second question that James doesn’t outright answer: How does God give wisdom?
Answer: Probably through trials of various kinds, so that the steadfastness may have its effect and make you perfect. (Feel free to search this text and double check my conclusions.)
Asking God for wisdom sometimes (usually) means trials and tests of your faith. Those experiences bring you wisdom.
I’ve always liked to think that my faith would be strong and unwavering if God were to take something from me. If I were to lose my sight or have a hand chopped off, I always thought I would be able to have faith through it and trust that, “God would work those things together for the good of those who love Him.” I.e.: Me.
I’ve heard stories of people who sustain great horrific loss and still manage to have faith throughout. I see Christians literally dying for their faith in the Middle East and think, “I could do that too if I were in that situation.”
I honestly think that I could… but…
Spraining my ankle has been a humbling experience in light of its triviality when compared to the big picture, and it has revealed my own lack of wisdom, lack of experience, and spiritual pride.
That’s not to say that spraining your ankle doesn’t matter. It hurts and it makes an impact.
That’s not to say I have no wisdom, and no experience, but I still lack some.
That is to say, using crutches for only two weeks longer than I was “supposed to” has showed me what little faith I have in God and how much further I still have to go in my Christian walk. I turned into a selfish jerk pretty quickly and had a pity-party over missing a few golf games. Listening to me in the last few days, you would think the 9th level of Dante’s hell was full of people stuck using crutches.
But thankfully, there is a remedy to this problem.
Something I like to say is, “As a Christian you should only, EVER, compare yourself to two people: Your old self, to see how far you’ve come, and Jesus, to see how far you have left to go.”
I haven’t been taking my own advice. Even just earlier in this very blog post I compared myself to Christians in the Middle East. I should have been comparing myself to Jesus.
Christians in the Middle East are dying for their faith; Jesus died so that they could have it in the first place. Jesus was the God-Man, and He died for other people. The bar is set higher than just dying for Jesus. Dying for Jesus is tough… Dying for sinners is unthinkable. That’s what he did.
Suddenly, my ankle doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Refocusing on the shocking reality of what Jesus did strengthens my faith. Praise God for his patience with a foolish, headstrong, know-it-all like me. He renewed me today. Praise His holy name.
Not only that, but the words of James are ringing true, afresh and anew in my ears. This trial is currently producing endurance.
If I hadn’t sprained my ankle, I wouldn’t have been on the crutches an extra two weeks, I wouldn’t have realized my own selfishness and spiritual pride, I wouldn’t have been humbled by Jesus’s sacrifice, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. But what am I saying? It all did happen, and it couldn’t have happened any other way. That’s the God we serve!
Praise God. All of these things I thought were “all about me” turn out to be all about HIM… and that’s just the way it should be.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
P.S. I don’t want to minimalize anyone’s pain with this post. God cares for all and about all and one day He will eradicate pain (Rev 21:4). Don’t take this post as me saying, “Christians dying for their faith don’t matter.” How you should take it is, “Our God is awesome. OUR. GOD. IS. SO. AWESOME.”