Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of
extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary
graces. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.
… Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
I read the quotation pasted above and was struck by how it cut to the quik. In our lives afflictions, trials and difficulties are viewed as punishment, but it may be that they are refinement. Through them, we experience a little bit of the grief of Gesthemane and a little bit of Calvary’s grace. They often defined us more than the good times, and strengthen us beyond mediocrity. They are, in summation, mini graduations; the start of a new chapter in life.
Listening to God is never an easy thing. Life purposes to distract us from the very thing that makes life worth living: an intimate and growing relationship with our Heavenly Father. The way of discipleship necessitates a commitment to active listening. For it is only through learning who the Father is, that we can follow after Him and make our feeble attempts to become more like Him every day.
Share time with Natalie began as a way to break free from my formulaic interactions. For a long time I’ve told people that my greatest strength and my greatest weakness is that I am a good listener. I listen so well that I never have to share about myself, something that causes me an irrational amount of displeasure. And I am a good listener. I ask questions, delve deep into stories and remember the smallest details from other people’s lives (I remember things about people I don’t even know – hence my fascination with celebrity gossip). The funny thing is, these disciplines that I so readily engage in when meeting other people, I rarely practice when spending time with God. How often have I asked God for further explanation? Do I ever repeat back what I think I’ve heard in order to emphasize that I am listening? Do I validate what He’s saying through a commitment to obedience? Or am I a passive learner; seeking only to hear His voice in the times when I need direction the most?
May this not be. May my life and my actions revel not only a growing knowledge about God, but a growing awareness of God. May I not only understand His character, but may I experience His compassion. May I not only feel His love, but may it so impress my heart that it radiates to those around me.