“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not put us to shame. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:2-5)
As I was ruminating on the topic of thanks and giving for this month’s issue, I felt God saying the trials that my LGBT children go through are not because I am ignoring them, but rather because I am pursuing them. We should be thankful for our trials because they allow us to give. I realize this may sound strange at first, but let me explain.
LGBT people are still often thought of as the least worthy in Christian communities today. Yet, despite how others might intend to harm us by kicking us out of churches or by restricting us from participating in ceremonies such as marriage thereby intending to diminish the status of our relationships, God acknowledges our situations and uses it for our benefit as God has been known to do throughout history. In Genesis, a man named Joseph is recorded as saying to his aggressors, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
God gets us in a place ready to receive his/her love not in spite of our pains but through them. Our moments of loneliness, persecution and inner torment are when God is knocking on our hearts waiting to be let loose to work. Those Christians who have never been humbled and have never had to question either the validity of their faith or the privilege of being called God’s children, also have never had the opportunity for God to meet them there and confirm his unrelenting love for them. Yet, we have. In our greatest times of need is when God’s presence is most discernable. Her/his compassion, guidance and comfort appears as soon we stop and humbly surrender our insufficient abilities to God to be utilized and refined as God sees fit. God with trials gives us the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us and through us to edify our world by working through our pain.
Being a pariah in society, develops an inner strength within us. We learn to value ourselves not based on the world’s approval, but on our relationship with God. Our pain like the fire on a piece of unformed iron, brings us to a place where God can mold and shape us, fashioning our character in the way of Christ. By humbling ourselves and seeing our suffering as opportunities for God to work, we will find ourselves in the midst of a truly faithful Christian community who are also about God’s business of love. In this Christian service, we will be endowed with an empathy for others who are also outside the realm of ready approval and a unifying compassion for all of God’s children even those who don’t love us back.
Each person and each community can relate to certain people and populations better than others can because of similarities in past experiences. These trials that we go through not only refine us, but they connect us to one another. In the same way it is recorded that we can easily approach Christ in prayer, because he was tempted just like we were so he understands (Hebrews 4:14-16), so others who are hurting and discriminated against can easily approach us because they know we understand them. God allows these pains so that we can communicate with others who are also hurting and reunite them with the God that will use their sufferings for their benefit.
We must be grateful for our trials because God uses them to develop us into better Christians, into more wholesome and beautiful people. People who know how to distribute the love of God to those who need it most. We must be thankful that God has given us his best gift, him/herself, demonstrated in her/his Son’s sacrifice, so that we might know how deeply God cherishes each and everyone of us. Only through our pain do we truly learn how to love. May we continue to work on our character, through trials, so that our lives become the greatest gifts we can offer the world.