Testing Your Faith

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 (ESV)

by Linda Lawton

Boulder SDB Church, CO

Imagine that one minute you are sitting peacefully in your chair, dozing over a book, and the next you find yourself standing in the middle of your living room in bewilderment, panic and fear, wondering what precipitated the HUGE explosion that knocked over furniture and caused the drywall over your head to fall on you. Beginning to smell smoke, you realize you need to get out, and you find yourself running out of your house without shoes or coat (or, indeed, any of those things you listed in those “what would you take with you in an emergency” quizzes). In the parking lot you see that the window of unit 7 next door has been blown out and landed on your husband’s car. There is broken glass everywhere and flames shooting from the basement in the adjoining end unit. Your neighbors in the rest of the six units in the building come running out of their homes as well, having felt the blast all the way to the end unit. Tearfully, you exchange impressions with neighbors as someone calls the fire department and the police. When they arrive, the police make sure everyone is out of the involved building and move you to the opposite side of the parking lot.

The fire department gets there in record time, but the unit next door is already nearly engulfed in flames. You stand across the parking lot where the police have directed you, shivering and crying off and on. A neighbor from one of the other buildings (whom you have never met) gives you a coat and slippers to wear. Other neighbors offer chairs to sit in and hot tea to drink. One brings a blanket.

You watch as the fire expands to the roof of your unit, fearing that everything you own is about to go up in smoke (literally!). The firemen are attacking the fire from the outside of unit 7. You see some firemen go into your unit — and not come back out. More firemen go into your unit, and then a long hose is taken in. You see lights flickering in your bedroom upstairs. As the time goes on and the firemen do not come back out, you think to yourself “this can’t be good.”

After waiting in the parking lot for three hours, the other four uninvolved units have no damage (not even smoke damage),

and the residents are allowed back in. Number 7 and Number 8 (your unit) are uninhabitable. They won’t even let you back in at this point to get anything. At midnight you call your daughter. “Hey, you know that apartment in your basement? You need to come pick us up and we need to use it.” A police officer walks you down the street to the parking lot of Boondocks, because no cars are being allowed in to the townhome parking lot. On the way to your daughter’s house, you stop at Walmart for toiletries, underwear and shoes.

Once at your daughter’s house, you call in to work and leave the message that you will not be in the next day. (It is 1 am, so technically it is already the next day). You go to bed, lying on the air mattress and reliving the explosion over and over. It is a long time before you get to sleep.

In the morning, you go back over to your home, hoping that you will be able to get in and assess the damage. You find that the fire department and police are still working in both units. They let you know that the fire was caused by the explosion of butane tanks the neighbors were using to (illegally) process marijuana into hash oil. They say over and over, “we are so sorry this happened to you,” and you believe them. The fire inspector agrees to let you in to pick up your phone, purse, and church record books, and then puts her arm around you for comfort and support as you get your first glimpse into your formerly cozy home, now nearly destroyed. There are holes in the walls, water and smoke damage everywhere, with books, bells, pictures, and furniture strewn all over. The smell of smoke is overpowering, and not the nice smoke of a campfire. Over the next couple of days you hear from the insurance company that everything needs to be evaluated by their salvage crews or you will not receive payment for it. This means a long wait to ascertain what is destroyed and what may be salvageable.

The above was not imagination — it was reality. We are still displaced, and it looks like it will be a long time before we get back in. With all the demolition, engineer evaluations, permits and plans, let alone the actual time for construction, we will feel ourselves blessed if we can be back in our home by Christmas.

Throughout this process I have re-learned several things:

1. God never promised us an easy life. I was asked “aren’t you angry at God?” The answer to that question is found in part of Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” We live in a fallen world, in which evil men do evil things, and many times innocent people get caught in the crossfire. Certainly He could have prevented it and chose not to. Still I trust in His love.

2. God has always taken care of us, and He will continue to do so. He has cared for us in the past through accident and illness, and in effect, He prepared the way for this. We had just refinanced the home, and as part of that we paid off all our debt except the mortgage. Our daughter and son-in-law had just completed construction of a small apartment in the basement of their home, which we are now occupying. I recognize that God’s care may even include taking His people home, I realize how easily we could have been seriously injured or killed, and I am grateful that we are still here.

3. God shows His love and provision through His people. We have received many expressions of love and concern, both verbal and through gifts.

4. Trust in God does not preclude anxiety, depression, or grief. My baseline stress level has risen considerably since April 11. I know that this is all in the hands of my loving Father, and I also know that He understands my anxiety, my depression, and my grief. He is waiting for me to turn it all over to Him, and I am doing so, little by little. Most days I am fine, going about my business, trying to ascertain what my “new normal” really is. Other days I find myself crying at nothing, feeling like this will never really be over, “awfulizing,” as an old friend would say. Still God loves me and waits for me to give it all entirely into His hands.

My devotional reading for this morning came from James 1:1-12 — verses 2-4 express what I hope may be the result in my life of this particular trial:

“2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (ESV)

Ultimately, if we stand firm to the end, we will be perfect and complete. In the meantime, let’s make it through one day at a time, placing all things in the hands of our loving Father, and may each new day be better than the last.

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