I’m one of these people who is genuinely a realist. I want to be a glass-half-full type, but I usually end up sounding more like the glass-half-empty crowd, even when I don’t feel that way. I like to approach life in a realistic way – good things and bad things happen to both good and bad people. That’s just life. Its certainly not fair. Its often not fun. But it’s reality. If something good happens to a bad person I don’t get mad about it (usually), and if a bad thing happens to a really good person I don’t get angry and jump on the “Why, God?” bandwagon. Simply because I figure the rain is going to fall on both the good person and the evil person – that’s just the way life is.
Being a realist is much harder than people think because you can’t get yourself all worked up over anything. Otherwise you risk looking like an optimist, or (heaven forbid) a pessimist. But I’m also one of these realist that doesn’t want the rain to fall on my head…or a tree….or a giant meteorite for that matter. I don’t like pain or discomfort…heck, I don’t even like having gas!
Despite the fact that I’m a self-proclaimed realist, I love reading the book of 1 Peter. I love that it tells me to suck it up when I’m in the midst of trials. To stop whining when hard times come along. And to look on the bright side of things, instead of being so cranky about suffering. In fact, I think if Peter though he could get away with it he’d have said something to the effect of, “Cowboy up!”
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
I think most of us prefer to have the sunshine instead of the rain in our Christian walk (metaphorically speaking, of course). We pray really hard when we’re in the midst of trials and suffering. We ask the Lord to rescue us from the fires of life and bring us out with as little singeing as possible. At least, I know I do.
But how often do we pray ourselves into the fire?
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7
“Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:13
I don’t want anyone to think I’m being masochistic here, because I’m not. I’ve already admitted to being a woos when it comes to suffering. But if the Bible tells us that suffering and hardships produce greater faith, as well as making us partners with Christ – well frankly, what else is there for us as Christians to do but pray ourselves into the fire?
In the Princess Bride (maybe one of the best movies of all time!), when Wesley and Buttercup enter the dreaded Fire Swamp, Buttercup discovers that within a few steps that she’s going to have to completely rely on Wesley to get her safely through to the other side. The happy couple learn very quickly to listen for the pre-popping of the fire spurts – and Wesley swings his beloved Buttercup out of harms way and onto safer ground. When Buttercup takes a misstep and drops into the lightning sand, Wesley dives in after her and pulls her to safety. When the R.U.S’s (Rodent’s of Unusual Size) attack the defenseless Buttercup, Wesley jumps in, throwing caution to the wind and fights it off. And in the end, Buttercup emerges from the Fire Swamp barely singed, thanks to her beloved Wesley’s willingness to be her savior.
When I’m in the midst of the Fire Swamp of life, I cling to Jesus with every particle of my being. My prayer life is stronger, my faith is more trusting, my concern for others is greater, and in general I’m more in tune with Christ’s voice in my life. But once He’s delivered me safely to the other side of the woods, I stop clinging and resume my regularly scheduled programming. Before long, the growth and intimacy that I developed during the time of hardship seems to slowly dissipate, until its almost completely gone. Its not until I find I’ve wondered back into the Fire Swamp that I reach out my hand for Jesus, so he can lead me safely through to the other side.