See Luminosity

The Test of Blessing

The Test of Blessing

We may say we are committed to God, but how do we really know?

We’ve been studying the book of Deuteronomy, in our January Bible Study at church, and it is a book that provides a lot of insights for where I am, right now. In Deuteronomy, God lays out two tests for the Israelites: One is a test of suffering. The other is a test of blessing.

Now, we usually get the idea of suffering, or scarcity, being a test of our faith – that when the chips are down, that’s when our true loyalties come to the surface. Deuteronomy 8 says this:

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”

OK, God disciplines us for our well-being through suffering and scarcity. But few of us consider the idea that times of blessing and prosperity are just as important an indicator of our relationship with the Lord. Later, in the same chapter of Deuteronomy, God says this:

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…”

Times of prosperity, of blessing, it says, tend to make us “satisfied” and “proud” and self-sufficient. In other words, they often lead us to forget God.

This is me.

Even two short years after learning the lessons from Dominic, after being inundated with the importance of relishing each moment and focusing on Him in the right now – I’ve drifted. Somehow, I’ve moved from trusting Him to trusting myself. I’ve moved from living in the present to living in the future. I’ve moved from surrender to control.

How did it happen?

This year, as I’ve moved further away from the intensity of my grief from the loss of my son, and have moved further into a time of prosperity (my husband’s promotion, a new house, improved emotional well-being), I have moved away from Him, as well. I have moved from living in the present, with Him, to living in the future. I’ve moved from intense need to relative self-sufficiency. I’ve moved from releasing in surrender to grasping for control.

I failed the test of prosperity.

Thankfully, I rely on Christ’s grace, and know that as soon as I repent of my drifting, I am forgiven. But that doesn’t change my desire to fix it – to prevent this from happening again. What is it, about our hearts, which is so prone to wandering?

How much suffering does it take for me to get it?

This miscarriage has exposed the drift.

Deuteronomy 11:7 says, “Your own eyes have seen every great work the Lord has done”.

I swore, after Dominic, that my eyes would stay open. That I would walk through life fully embracing the totality of who He is in my moments – really and truly seeing Him – and that it would impact every part of my daily life and responses.

I didn’t, and it didn’t.

I am now, again, in the test of suffering. And, ironically, it is during this test that I find Him again. In fact, the more I suffer, the more I am convinced that it is simply impossible to become the people God wants us to be without suffering. Not that I want to volunteer for the next suffering test, of course, but I am seeing, with every experience of pain, how through it His real work, His best work, is done.

We say that we love Him, but we cannot know that is true until our circumstances cause us to feel He is unloving. We say that we trust Him, but we cannot know that is true until we are rendered utterly incapable of trusting in ourselves. We say that we are His disciples, but we cannot know that until we follow Him to the cross and are actually crucified with Him.

I hate suffering, but I see, more and more, unfortunately, that I need it. Without it, I revert to my self-sufficient, self-centered self. Sure, I had my regular devotion times throughout my period of blessing, and I talked to Him daily, and I worshiped regularly. But I didn’t need Him, the way I do when I suffer. Sure, I praised Him each day for my blessings, and I served the least of these, and I studied His word. But I didn’t really see Him, the way I do when I suffer.

“Your own eyes have seen every great work the Lord has done”.

The harsh reality is that in prosperity, as much as I try to prevent it, I develop spiritual cataracts. It takes suffering to remove my blinders and allow me to really see Him again, and to see my own need. God is in suffering. He is in blessing, too, but that’s not where we see Him. In fact, we usually completely miss Him in blessing…over and over again. We may give a passing nod to Him as we enjoy our blessing, but we don’t truly, fundamentally, need Him. We don’t pine for Him or thirst for Him or grasp for Him until we suffer. Then, all of a sudden, we see Him, fully, and we are changed.

Maybe I will always need it, the discipline of suffering. Maybe, as I suffer more and better as this life unfolds, the process of doing so will better help me keep the lessons learned in front of me when I move into a time of prosperity. I don’t know.

But I do know this – the answer to that first question – How do we know we are truly committed to God? – lies in our ability to show our discipleship through both the test of suffering and the test of prosperity. And, that, at least for me, right now…

It depends on my willingness to love Him, trust Him, and praise Him, through whatever amount of suffering it takes for me to be able to maintain the same level of devotion during the test of blessing.

Lord, help my own eyes to always, always, see.

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