Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1: 2
In my office at home I have a typical office desk with a file drawer full of hanging files. Among my 24 hanging files, there are 2 files that particularly stand out – first because of their unique colors, but more importantly because of their unique content.
The first file is yellow, and labeled “TESTIMONIES ITM”. Just behind it rest a green file, labeled “TESTIMONIES”. These files symbolize trust, hope, faith, and dependence on the Lord. Most of all, these files represent victories over doubt and despair, and are designed to provide comfort for the future fears and uncertainties that most assuredly await me. Allow me to explain:
My youngest son, Dylan, was born with a kidney defect – something called hydronephrosis. In layman’s terms hydronephrosis is the underdevelopment of a kidney…the right one in Dylan’s case. Though not at all life-threatening, the doctors were sure that Dylan’s condition would require surgical intervention – probably even before his 1st birthday.
When we found out about Dylan’s impending surgery, my wife and I did the only thing we knew how to do – we fell to our knees and asked God to intervene. But things got progressively worse. It was then that I decided to bring out the heavy artillery. So along with my prayers I began to fast, as I petitioned the Lord to heal Dylan so that surgery would no longer be necessary.
During Dylan’s next appointment with the Pediatric Urologist I was as giddy as a school boy. I already knew what the doctor was going to say as he reviewed Dylan’s latest x-rays, and I could hear his words even before they were spoken – “I can’t explain it, but Dylan no longer needs the surgery”.
But on that March 2012 day, as I prepared to lip sync the words right along with the doctor, the message that he conveyed was much different than I had anticipated. “Things have actually gotten increasingly worse, now we need to expedite the surgery.”
`But how could that be?’ `I prayed, I fasted, I trusted, I believed!’ `I did everything I was taught to do, everything the bible tells us to do.’ `How could God have denied me?’
For the next several days, I fluctuated between being disappointed, confused, and just flat out angry with God. Then, a few weeks later, we received another call from the doctor’s office. It seemed that there was some sort of discrepancy between the opinion of the physician, and that of the x-ray technician, regarding the reading of Dylan’s last x-ray. As a result they wanted to bring Dylan back for one more test before the surgery.
At that point I had resigned myself to the fact that Dylan would need the surgery, and I was anxious to just get it over with. More testing would only prolong the process and delay the inevitable.
The following week, when we arrived at the doctor’s office for the additional testing, I had no pretenses of receiving positive news, or witnessing any minor miracles. I just wanted closure. Dylan again went through his now familiar battery of tests, and we once again sat in the waiting room, awaiting the doctor’s dire report.
Upon his arrival, the doctor went through his requisite review of charts and x-rays, all with the usual stoicism of a tenured Brick Mason. But this time his words rang out with a vague familiarity that I had long since lost all hope of ever hearing: “Well, it looks like things have actually improved, I don’t believe the surgery is necessary anymore.” `UH, WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!’
I couldn’t believe it! The Lord, in spite of all of my doubts and childish pouting, had answered my prayer after all. I was torn between feeling elated, and feeling overwhelmingly guilty for ever doubting God. Right then I silently promised myself that I would never doubt God again. I also vowed that the next time I was faced with a dire crisis I would always remember how God faithfully answered my prayer concerning my son’s health issue.
FAST FORWARD 12 MONTHS
Dylan, having recently celebrated his second birthday, was showing mild signs of developmental delays. My wife and I didn’t think much of it, but Dylan’s Pediatrician was concerned. Concerned enough that she wanted to get him tested for autism. `AUTISM! OH NO, NOT AGAIN – NOT ANOTHER CRISIS!’
I spent that entire night, tossing and turning, asking God why. Then, just as I was all set to go full bore, back into my – Woe is me; Lord where are you?; Why has thou forsaken this family? – mode, I remembered my promise from just 12 months prior – `Never doubt God again, remember what he has already done, trust that He can do it again’.
I immediately became frustrated with myself. `Why do I always seem to have these transient battles with faith every time a crisis appears?’ `Why can’t I remember the many times that God has proven his faithfulness, and just trust Him?’ `Why can’t I view Satan’s threats as nothing more than testimonies, in the making?’
So this time, instead of reverting back to my childlike episodes of doubting and pouting, I decided to attack my issue of conveniently forgetting God’s goodness, and my need to change my perspective. It was then that I went to my office and created the two unusual files.
I found a yellow file, and labeled it “Testimonies ITM” (ITM for `In The Making’). I chose yellow because it is the color for caution, for taking heed, for slowing down. Then I found a green file and labeled it simply “Testimonies”. I chose green because it is the color for moving forward, full speed ahead.
My theory was that, from that day forward, I would place anything that served as tangible indicators of my fears and concerns, or of Satan’s threats, in the yellow “Testimonies ITM” file as I prayed over them. Then, once God answered the prayer, I would simply move those tangible indicators to the “Testimonies” file. Any time I started to doubt God’s faithfulness as it pertained to my trials, I could go retrieve my “Testimonies” file, overflowing with examples of previous trials that God had miraculously turned into testimonies.
My first entry for my “Testimonies ITM” pertained to Dylan’s autism concerns. It was dated March 7, 2013, and read as follows:
“Lord, Dylan has a 2 hour learning evaluation tomorrow. My wife believes that he will leave with some sort of label. So do I. I also believed that Dylan would leave his Urologist’s office with some sort of label last year. But not the label that everyone else expected. I believed then that Dylan would be labeled as the recipient of a miracle. I can’t wait to see you at work again!”
Well, Dylan did get tested, and true to form, things immediately got worse. It was discovered that Dylan does suffer from mild autism. We were devastated, it wasn’t the news we were expecting.
We soon enrolled Dylan into a school for autistic children. While it was difficult and rather costly, we praise God for the incredibly work that his school does for autistic children like our son. But that’s just one testimony.
During the 2nd half of last school year we enrolled Dylan in preschool at a public school in our neighborhood. Last month Dylan started kindergarten at the same school, just like any other kid. Today Dylan, for all intents and purposes, is now a typical 5 year old – except for his ultra-feistiness (he gets it from his Mom, of course!). Once again the Lord proved to be faithful.
My “Testimonies ITM” file today stills contains a few entries regarding job challenges, health concerns, and financial woes. But my “Testimonies” file is now overflowing with tangible evidence consisting of unpayable bills, unsolvable marital issues, and unfixable problems – all miraculously addressed by God over time.
I’m not positioning God as a magic genie of sort, standing at our beck and call, eagerly waiting to grant our next command. The fact is God often does not answer my prayers in the manner in which I have petitioned Him. Yet, some of my greatest testimonies have derived from the times when God has said “no”, or “not now”, or “my grace is sufficient.” Those are the times when my patience, perseverance, and reliance on Him have produced greater faith.
Now, whenever a trial enters my life, I immediately head upstairs to my office, to record it in my “Testimonies ITM” file. I then take a moment to flip through my “Testimonies” file for encouragement and confirmation of God’s faithfulness.
Because I now know that our greatest trials provide the foundation for God’s greatest triumphs within our lives. And those trials represent nothing more than testimonies, in the making.
Before Amen Prayer Journal
We all pray . . . some. We pray to stay sober, centered, or solvent. When the lump is deemed malignant. When the money runs out before the month does. When the marriage is falling apart. We pray.
But wouldn’t we like to pray more? Better? Stronger? With more fire, faith, and fervency?
The Before Amen Prayer Journal by Max Lucado helps readers stoke that fire. It features quotes and scriptures to inspire both prayer warriors and those who struggle to pray with an easy-to-follow outline and biblical approach to conversations with God. BUY NOW.