So, today is two days after thanksgiving. How do you feel? Are you basking in the afterglow of spending quality time with friends and family? Are you fighting depression due to the isolation caused by a global pandemic? Are you swimming in anxiety, dancing with insecurities after listening to everyone else's amazing life plans?
How are you doing?
And today, just days after the family photos and food pics, what do you have to be thankful for?
This is my blog, and I hope that we can all be honest in this space. 2020 has been a trying year for many - but for some, the trials started way before then.
In our house, the years have gotten increasingly tough since 2016. We aren't strangers to heartbreak, depression, anxiety, fear, doubt, defeat, and outright anger. We believe in being honest in our stories. Being honest with ourselves, helps us be honest with God, and through Him, we can be honest with others. Vulnerability is not the antithesis of faith. Reality does not negate spirituality. Acknowledging reality through the lens of faith is necessary for intimacy and growth.
When thinking about my holiday season this year, God brought this picture from Luke 22 to mind:
In Luke 22, Jesus sits with his disciples and shares a final meal before sacrificing His life for us all. While at the table, He says to Peter,
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (v.31-32)
There are 4 things I found interesting about this verse.
1. Satan demanded to have him.
First of all, can he even do that?
But apparently he tried it. My question is why? Why, when there was a whole world of people to sift, did he demand Peter?
My guess is he knew Peter was going to wreck shop just a short time later. My question is, does that encourage you?
I mean, really. I'm curious. Does knowing that Satan has targeted you because of the greatness of your purpose in the Kingdom of God make you more willing to endure suffering?
Notice, I asked about Satan targeting you because of purpose, not blessing. So, what if purpose is on the other side of your suffering, instead of the house, job, or spouse that you're asking God for? Is it still worth it then? I truly want to know how my brothers and sisters are feeling on this one. Leave your answer in the comments for me.
2. Jesus prayed.
The scripture tells us Jesus prayed. Ok, that's a good sign. I bet Pete was feeling a little better with his big brother in his corner. But then, we read the request that Jesus actually made. He did not pray to stop the sifting. He simply prayed that Peter's faith would not fail. All that power, and that's what He came back with. I would have been hot. But ok, You're the messiah; You know best. There's a sifting coming, but I'm not going to fail. Let's do this.
3. Peter failed.
Guys, this keeps getting wilder and wilder. In the reference scripture, Jesus tells Peter, "when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Turned again. So, at some point Pete was facing the wrong way. He made a mistake, he missed the mark, he failed.
So you mean to tell me, Jesus, Himself, the Word made flesh, omnipotent, omniscient, Creator of All prayed and Peter still failed. How did this happen?
Alright, let's go back and look at this prayer again. Jesus said, "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." He didn't pray that your business wouldn't fail, or your relationship wouldn't fail, or your health wouldn't fail. He prayed that your FAITH wouldn't fail. When Satan comes to sift us - and he will - what will we believe about God? How will that belief affect the decisions we make everyday?
4. Simon failed, but his purpose didn't change.
Jesus told Simon, "when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." I won't go so far as to say our trials aren't about us. I don't think that's true. I believe God cares immensely about each of us individually. Our trials open up opportunities to trust him more and become more understanding and empathetic. Sometimes what we consider trials are actually blessings we aren't mature enough to understand.
But in addition to all of that, surviving our trials also gives us lessons that can teach and encourage those coming behind us.
So, I ask you again, what do you have to be thankful for today? Even if the gratitude comes through tears, what moment from today can you claim and acknowledge for the glory of God?