I read a lot of books (obviously). I love books. I’ve learned a lot from them. But there are some things I’ve not been able to learn from the books I’ve read. In fact, there’s a large degree to which all I’ve learned from my reading is theoretical. And then something happens in my life that puts me to the test—a miscarriage (and a second-go-around on that same miscarriage); financial hardship; difficulties at work; Emily’s epilepsy diagnosis; challenges with the public school system and a thousand other things besides…
One Easter weekend, about seven years ago now, I was making a sandwich, and I had to put the knife I was using down because my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I’d been running off my feet for months—years, actually. My body said “when.” But there was something else, too. It wasn’t just my body that was making me stop. It was a realization that I was living in a way that didn’t reflect my theoretical theology.
I could state my reliance upon God, my assertion that he is indeed the sovereign king of the universe… but if I had to be honest, I was living like I was the one in charge. And at that moment, it was like everything around me was saying, “No, you’re really not.”
What I’ve been reminded of again and again since that day—aside from my constant wrestle with overworking and/or overcommitting—has been that it’s been my experiences that have revealed to me what I’ve practically been believing. And sometimes they’re not the same thing.
Though I don’t look at trial and say, “Yay!” I find myself more and more appreciating the value of trials and difficulty. They have been a good teacher to me. As Spurgeon once said,
We learn more true divinity by our trials than by our books. The great Reformer said, “Prayer is the best book in my library.” He might have added affliction as the next. Sickness is the best Doctor of Divinity in all the world; and trial is the finest exposition of Scripture. This is so inestimable a mark of the love of our blessed Lord that we might almost desire trouble for the sake of it. This proves him to be wise in his hardest dealings towards us, and therefore supremely kind; for is it not kindness which puts us to a little trouble for the sake of an immense advantage, and doth, as it were, take our money out of our coffers at home that it may return again with mighty interest? Jesus is a friend indeed!1
It’s in trial and difficulty that theory gets practical. Don’t run away from it. Embrace it, for they are a kindness to us—and Jesus, who has gone before us, is there with us.