Dear Jack, as you know these are trying times for everyone. What with abducted young girls and bomb blasts… I know you’re going through your own trials too…
Pick up any historical on any stock offering and you’ll notice something curious. No matter the trajectory of the stock it is almost like a topography, as if you’re looking at a landscape of hills. The curves are jagged with micro rises and falls. It’s like climbing a summit. Sometimes the curves drop precipitously, then they pick up, determined in ascent. Those rises and falls represent the performance of the stock on a daily basis. However if you’re looking at yearly performance with substantial intervals you may not see the micro rises and falls. But you will see the big drops and the long arduous climbs. The curves will however be smoother. In other words it all depends on how closely you zoom in and what metric of intervals you’re considering. Those stock graphs mirror life- the life of any man or woman. Life is full of ups and downs on many dimensions. Because we’re not close to the details of the lives of others we can’t see the micro peaks and dips.
Take the life of any successful man- say Bill Gates. From a distance it appears smooth. I mean, how much trouble can you have with all those billions, right? But his life appears so because we’re not considering his day to day struggles. We’re probably looking at his life in 10 year intervals and at that scale everything appears smooth. But those who are close to Bill Gates will tell you otherwise. They’ll tell you about his emotional ups and downs, especially during the years of trouble for Microsoft. They’ll tell you about the anguish of his soul when the government was threatening to break up Microsoft. There were reports of Bill Gates breaking down in management meetings during that period. They’ll tell you about his fears when a browser called Netscape threatened the very existence of Microsoft. Of the trauma of Microsoft being convicted for unfair business practices.
No man’s life is a smooth curve. It only appears so. Life has its trials and I will be remiss in my responsibility if I don’t point this out to you. In not sharing truth with you I shall unwittingly be presenting you with a vision of a lie. Life is not all “Darling, sweetheart, honey, chicken pie, Mr. Biggs, Ice Cream Factory!” Life can be gritty. In life there are the micro hills and valleys. Then there are the precipitous ups and downs, like those of stocks. Trials are a reality of life. Life in general is made up of blocks of time we call seasons. A man’s life is in seasons- coloured blocks of time with predominating experiences. These seasons are often in polarity. So there are seasons of trial and seasons of prosperity. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
The polarity of seasons is indicated in the Book of Beginnings: As long as the earth remains there will be cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night. This is the calendric rhythm of life. I am yet to meet that successful man whose life is all summer and who hasn’t experienced cold and heat. The Bill Gates of those days, one Mr. Job…no, not Steve Jobs of Apple fame… I’m talking of the man we popularly call Job in the Bible- he faced horrendous trials. Those kinds of trials are the type we pray God spares us from. It was extreme to say the least. But he came out of it. Turned out God’s boast about the trueness of his heart led to his troubles.
The trials of a rich man or a great man are never a pittance. Now, how life allocates its repertoire of trials remains a mystery. The system is opaque. But at least it seems to match intensity of trial to capacity. The trials we face depends on our capacity. God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can handle. Trials are not configured to overwhelm us. They are configured to prune us, to straighten us out. We all without exception are prone to going off kilter every once in every while. Trials knock us back into channel. Though the point of trial isn’t always about knocking us back into shape. From the story of Mr. Job it can just be materials testing, you know checking the performance or quality of something. Of course there are false trials. You cannot be a thief and when you’re caught claim to be going through a trial. Unless of course literarily in a law court; but that’s clearly not the definition God had in mind.
What do we do in times of trial? Well, theory is always easy. And I’m sure everyone who is not facing a trial is the author of a book on how to cope with trial. You know those kinds of books…7 Steps On How To Overcome Trials (and come out smiling!) You have to pray for strength to endure trials though I assume for most of us we just want to get out! James wrote about sticking it out through trials- bearing up under it. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate, he wrote. “Blessed is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive the victor’s crown of life.”
I am not one given to explaining the cause of trials as a result of transgression. I think that kind of reasoning conceals schadenfreude- delight in the pain of others. Those who believe in the theory point to the troubles of David as having begun because of sexual relations with “that woman”. But Mr. Job was a straight arrow. He feared God significantly; and 16 year old Joseph is not recorded as having sinned. Yet both underwent horrendous trial. I think that theory misses the purport of trials- materials testing.
May the mercy of God preserve you in your hour of trial.
© Leke Alder 2014