In 1970, during the Apollo 13 mission, Jack Swigert did what was apparently a routine task for an astronaut--he switched on the stirring fans for the oxygen tank. The result was an explosion that curtailed the original plans to land on the moon and put the astronauts lives in danger.
We now know that the problem was faulty insulation on some of the wires--wires that had been manufactured and placed in the command module long before the mission. No problem was visible to the naked eye, but when they were put to the test, they failed.
Often in our lives, we sail along, our misconceptions and unbelief unnoticeable. Then the test comes. Then our weakness are exposed and we find ourselves reeling.
Perhaps the test comes as a problem in our marriage or a wayward child. Or maybe it's an unexpected illness or sudden job loss that reveals our unbelief. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, though. In fact, it’s often the petty annoyances that best expose our weaknesses. The snarled traffic on the freeway, or that difficult person we encounter at work or church. We find ourselves snapping with anger or contempt, then we slink away, shocked that we could be so petty.
We should, of course, get to know God through his word and seek his wisdom. This is right and good, and can help us to stand firm and learn to die to ourselves in the difficult times. But we should never kid ourselves that we can eliminate stressors from our lives. And no matter how solid our theology, our sin is still with us. No matter how careful we are, trials will find us.
When the trials do come, we should let them teach us. We should use them as a time to get underneath our emotions, to see what we have valued above God and his glory. We need to see what is being threatened that we don’t want to live without. Then we can move forward, taking comfort in the fact that we now know God better.
Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Think of the last time you felt disproportionally stressed or upset. What did you most fear losing during that time? Your comfort? The esteem of others? Control?
Think of the big trials in your life. What did they teach you about God? Could you have learned those lessons any other way?