As we geared up to host what I hoped to be an inspiring weekend of Bible teaching focused on 1 Peter, I was, naturally, rather wrapped up in the details. I fussed that we hadn’t had as many people sign up as usual, and I tallied the numbers to find that the block of rooms and the meeting room at the hotel was not working out cost-wise with the smaller attendance. As we neared the deadline, I agonized over the issue. There were a few registered who were traveling quite a distance to attend, so it seemed impossible to cancel the event, BUT it also seemed poor stewardship to go ahead without enough registration fees to support it. Finally, it became obvious that we would have to give up the hotel reservation.
It’s a bad feeling to plan an event and have it flop. Not only is it disappointing, but it’s a little hard not to take it personally. I was discouraged. The other people involved decided that we could continue with the event in another venue, and they got to work. While they called local churches and community centers, I have to confess that I pouted. I didn’t think it could work. I was grumpy, and didn’t want to change my plans. If I couldn’t have it my way, I didn’t want to do it. But lo and behold, even though it was only a week before our retreat, they found a local church that was willing to let us use their fellowship area. This was going to mean doing our own food service and hosting attendees in our homes to stay within budget, so some of the young ladies got busy and put together meals. I am ashamed to say that I continued to doubt. I cleaned my house and got schedules printed and sent emails with details about the change of location, but I grumped and I stressed about the change of plans, convinced that it would be chaos rather than the uplifting weekend I had envisioned.
Yes, I read through 1 Peter in preparation, but quickly. After all, I had a LOT to do before the retreat started on Friday evening! By Thursday night, I had calmed myself fairly well, and felt that things might be coming together after all, when at 9 pm we received a phone call. There had been a lack of communication between the pastor and the person in charge of scheduling, and oh, they were so very sorry, but the church had a funeral on Saturday and we couldn’t use their facility after all. I felt my heart plummet into the depths. WHAT?? How could they DO this to us? It was definitely too late to cancel now, since we knew that a couple of the people would already be traveling in order to arrive by the next evening. We were stunned. What in the world could we do? This was going to be a fiasco!
We discussed a few other options, wondered what we could possibly do about it at the last minute like this, bounced a few phone calls around, and once again I fell into serious doubt. I wondered whether this was an attack of Satan, or whether God himself was telling us to shut it down, and we had just been too dense to get the message. I felt horrible for people who had made plans to be here, because how could we possibly come up with yet another venue in less than 24 hours? And I got angry because it seemed there was nothing I could do to fix it.
Rather miraculously, we were given another location within the hour. Certainly not due to my prayers–I’m afraid my prayers were more of the complaining sort than otherwise–but God came through anyway. It was not the type of place I had envisioned, but it worked. And it actually worked quite well. Friday evening as I sat and listened to the discourse on 1 Peter Chapter One, I heard this:
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which [e]is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Various trials…oh, yes, I could relate to that. Definitely. But what was the first part? Rejoice? Really? Could I relate to that? Um…not so much. I hadn’t been doing a lot of rejoicing the past few days. I hadn’t been focusing on God’s mercy and the inheritance He had provided me. I had been completely and utterly absorbed in those TRIALS that had been sent my way. And trials, it was pointed out, are tests. My faith had been tested (had it ever!) and how had I come out of it? Had I shown ‘proof’ of my faith?
Um, no. I had railed and ranted, I had pouted and doubted, I had gotten just plain angry. I forgot one very simple principle which I have shared many times with numerous people: that when I am weak and helpless, that is when GOD can shine! I can’t count the number of times I have spoken about, written about, and thought about that awesome truth. But here, where my carefully laid plans had been derailed, detoured, and completely rerouted, I had completely failed to acknowledge it.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor 12:9
(Side note: This is such a favorite Scripture of mine that when I went to Bible Gateway to copy it, I found that it was already entered into the search box. It was the last passage I had looked up there. How in the world, God, could I have possibly forgotten about it this time?)
It made me realize that, study as we will, the real lessons are learned as we live. I knew that God gives us challenges so that we will lean on Him. I had memorized the above passage years ago. I have applied it to many different situations. But this time, instead of remembering this truth and reflecting His glory, I only reacted.
It was humbling, to say the least, as I sat there in this Bible study that I had helped to plan, to realize that I had failed this most basic of lessons.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:2-4
Yes, count it all JOY. How many, many times, Lord, do I mess it up? And every time, you gently lead me back. You remind me again that it’s not about me, it’s not about my plans, that you have it all in the palm of your hand. The trials, the temptations, the challenges…if I will only hand them to you, Lord, you can redeem them, make them precious!
Thank you so much, Lord, for your incredible patience toward me! Help me to be a little more ready for the next time my faith is tested.