Wednesdays with Jillene: character in the tough times

Just plain honest: I want life to be problem free.

If left up to me, I would choose an easy, carefree life where I didn’t face any struggles, never encountered misunderstandings, did everything perfectly (the first time), have a great attitude every morning after awaking from a full and restful night’s sleep… and now I just started laughing. Because already my list of the type of life I would like to have has become ridiculously laughable because it is unattainable and grossly unrealistic.

If living a problem free life was my goal, then I would be sorely disappointed. Because even when I do my best, I’m still a sinner saved by grace needing forgiveness on the daily. A.K.A.- I’m going to mess up a lot. Not to mention that I’m only able to control me and have no control over others, the weather, disasters, much less diseases and viruses!

There is no guarantee of a life free from trouble, trials and tribulation. Quite the opposite, we are to expect them. Scripture reminds us of this reality:

 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

While there are many difficulties I can bring upon myself, having problems or facing troubling times doesn’t mean I’m failing. Scripture is clear: we will have problems.  My character isn’t determined by lack of problems but shown in how I respond what problems come. That is amazingly freeing and challenging all in one.

Character might not look like you’d expect or at least not how many of us would like! It doesn’t mean that when trouble times come you are perfect, never crying, able to continue daily life uninterrupted, never questioning, without a hint of doubt, full of assurance, always smiling… Maybe someday, but for most of us, today is not that day; the Lord is thankfully still working on us!

When I reflect on people who show great depth of character through the ups and downs of life, I would say that they lived their lives in way that honored and glorified the Lord in their accomplishments and successes as well as the difficulties and failures of their day to day life. In living to glorify God, they’ve given us insight into how to build our character.

Strength of character is shown in genuine expression of emotion and thought. It is real… real life comes with real emotions. Strength is found in true expression of emotion while not being ruled by what you’re feeling.

Strength of character is found in reliance upon God. Scripture shows us time and again that strength is found in weakness because it is precisely there that God shows Himself strong. God is our refuge. God is our ever-present help. God is our advocate. God is our defender.  God is our deliverer. God is our truth. God is our peace. God is our strength.

Strength of character is found in reliance upon the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12  is a powerful picture of the physical body as a metaphor for the spiritual body, the people of Christ. “26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Strength is in the body working together in prayer, with hope and encouragement, as advocates, with hospitality, in service, in leadership, in discipleship, in community. You aren’t in this alone.

Strength of character shows wisdom to remember the faithfulness of God and the drive to hold onto truth.  From the book of Exodus the people of God were commanded to remember, to recite, to share the faithfulness of God by remembering his faithful deliverance of His people. As you study, memorize and share the Word, you remember. As you share the intersection of your story and God’s story you testify to remembering God’s faithfulness. Remembering the character of God grounds our trust and faith in the Lord when we can’t see how the current realities will ever turn out for good!

Strength of character lives in love of God and others. When we live secure in God’s love we are compelled to live with that same love for others. In the depths of the hardest trials of life, the most powerful expressions of love often come from those who have the least to give. Never underestimate the power of a smile, listening ear, and kind words.  All the widow had to give as an offering was worth less than a few cents, yet Jesus said of her, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” 

Strength of character finds hope as Romans 5 reminds us: “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If we find our character lacking it is not without purpose, these times of great trial work to grow us. Maybe as you read this you’ve felt the Lord’s conviction to be real with your emotion or not to be a slave to them. Perhaps God’s gentle correction was speaking to your self-reliance as He drew you closer to Himself. Others of us have felt the great lack of socialization in these times and God is showing us how much we truly need community! Were you encouraged to remember the faithfulness of the Lord as a guide for trusting Him in these uncertain times? In this time, when there is so much we can’t do have you felt the call to give what you can to bless others? How have you found hope in the Lord in these trying times?

I’m here if you need an ear to listen. Send me a message and I would be happy to give you a call. I’m here to pray if you feel overwhelmed. I would love to hear stories of how God is at work in your life during these trying times!

~Jillene

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