September 14, 2023

Author: Andrea Maher

When I became a born-again Christian, I was excited about having a real relationship with God. I plunged into bible study with a sincere desire to learn and be used by Him. I had visions of becoming a modern-day Catherine Laboure. Who? (Oh, she was a saint from my former religion, whose name I chose for my confirmation—thus Andrea Catherine). I read her biography at nine-years-old and was mesmerized by the courage she displayed in her life. It was my first naïve, (and now humorous), desire that perhaps I too could be canonized into sainthood by something I did for God.

After my conversion from religion to relationship, I set out to unashamedly tell the world. I chose Psalm 22: 16-18, the verses that specifically foretell the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, to extrapolate in my college Oral Interpretation project. My hope was to lead some of my classmates to the Lord. The riotous discussion that followed was an unexpected eye-opener and temporarily shook up my self-imposed calling.

However, that didn’t deter me from being drawn to the inspiration of the story of Esther where one of the more notable lines was “for such a time as this you have been chosen.” Yes. I wanted to be chosen. Use me, Lord! I truly meant it, but I never thought being used would mean being bruised.

I thought modern day service to God would be a smooth sailing path — with Jesus by my side things would never get harder. What Bible was I reading?

I have since learned there is the teaching of faith and there is the testing of faith:  two very different streams that are necessary to intersect in every believer’s life. When God chooses to use people to show His power, it is usually through trial and not comfort.

I learned more about the peace of God through the desolate road that rendered me helpless in front of my son’s open casket. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7).

His intimate love continued to teach and pour out His Spirit within me standing in a prison line for almost five years visiting another son. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Like Salome, the mother of the two apostle’s, James and John, I had a worldly view of God that needed to be flushed out. I hadn’t realized that I placed Jesus in the co-pilot seat where we could comfortably navigate life together — me informing Him of my destination. I never truly pondered the words of the prophet Isaiah until I was forced into a course correction, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So, are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Consider that Salome’s sons were hand selected by Jesus to become His apostles. And in her mind, Jesus was the Messiah who would overcome the abuse of the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom for the Jews. And like any good mamma, she wanted the best for her sons. So, she approached Jesus, knelt down and said, “Say that my two sons may sit, one at Your right side and one at Your left side, when you are King “(Matthew 20:21). Jesus understood her misunderstanding of His call and responded to her in a gentle but factual manner, “It is not mine to give but My Fathers.”

The memory of her request must have caused her heart to quiver while standing at the foot of the cross gazing at the brutal crucifixion of Jesus and seeing two men — one on his right and one on his left. Do you think the idea of asking favor for her sons would ever have included this horrific scene?

If you are praying to be used by God expect to go through some fiery trials. It is the trials of our lives that transform us and deepen our relationship with God. It is necessary for head knowledge to become intimate heart knowledge. It is through those hard times that we experience His support, and knowledge of His truths become the necessary flotation device that keeps us afloat.

Pain is never without purpose. Henry Nouwen says it best, “The great illusion of leadership is that people can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there in the first place.”

God allows us to experience pain to cease from our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness, and become acquainted with the crucified Christ. He alone shows up and leads us out of our troubles. When God does the work, He gets the glory. Having a peace in comfortable times is normal; having peace under affliction is not.

So, when you are a follower of Jesus, imagine that being a modern-day saint is not running from trials but showing the world who He is as you lean on Him through the trials. Don’t aspire to be anyone but who God created and called you to be. And if you desire to be used then know it is He and He alone that will make it doable.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6-7).

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