by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
Two of my boys played Lacrosse in high school. I hated the days of training preceding the actual games. Standing in the parking lot watching them push their bodies to the limit over and over, seeing them limp to our car after practice, dirty and exhausted, was trying to this mother’s soul. My instinct was to nurture and comfort. But the coaches knew the harsh regiment was necessary to both the success and safety of the team.
Coach Tom Landry once remarked, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”
Just as in athletics, God’s spiritual training can be tough. It frequently involves hardship and rouses us out of our comfort zone. Through the process we come to understand the reality how truly dependent we are on Him.
David knew the pain of God’s process. During his teen years, God led Samuel to anoint David to be the next king. But it would be quite some time before that promise would be fulfilled. At first, things looked promising. David faced Goliath and brought him down with a single slingshot blow as the entire army of Israel looked on. It would be the first of many other military successes. It wasn’t long before David was a household word. Women would dance in the streets at the army’s arrival, singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten-thousands.” It must have seemed to David that his installation as monarch was right around the corner.
Not so. Rather than becoming king, David found himself running for his life. Saul, feeling threatened by David, spent the next decade or so chasing David around the countryside. He was out to destroy him for good.
In the long wait, David hung on to God’s promise. Even when opportunities came to kill Saul, David resisted. It would be many years of sleeping in caves and living off the land before God did what He said He would.
Why? God had a purpose for those trying years. A group of 400 malcontents, frustrated with the political situation, rallied around David. He trained them into an impressive military corps. David also learned diplomacy skills while dealing with foreign leaders. Most importantly, as God proved His faithfulness time after time, David moved into a deeper relationship and level of trust in Him.
Should the Lord have begun David’s reign while in his youth, as he shepherded sheep for his father, no doubt his leadership would have been far less impressive. So God used David’s time in the desert as a kingship boot camp, providing the experiences and training to someday be a great king.
Those years in waiting were not a comfortable existence for David. But they were necessary. And God didn’t waste a single moment.
Has God called you to something (as He did David)? Maybe a major change or a new ministry? But then when you set out to do it, you found yourself banging your head against a wall? And you wondered: did I hear Him incorrectly?
There have been several times in my life that I have felt His leading. He impresses desires on my heart. But a calling is not necessarily a qualifying. The passion and vision for His plan is given in advance to keep us persevering through the training period.
Some years ago, a Maryland pastor wrote the following in the agonizing days preceding his young wife’s death: “We want things now. Father, microwave us into being like Jesus. But discipleship doesn’t happen overnight. Often God forges His children into His image through the long and dark nights of the soul. We must trust His plan and also His timing! When the time is right, He will bring us out of our trial and we will look more like Him when He does.”
Sanctification, God’s training ground, is a process: often a long and trying process. We yearn for it to end quickly and are unable to see past our immediate, painful circumstances to the wisdom of God.
Yet there is glory ahead. God has a plan and a purpose for the pain. Even when we can’t see the light from inside the tunnel, we can trust in His plan, as He relentlessly moves us toward becoming like Jesus Christ.
He knows the way that I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Join the conversation: Are you in God’s training ground?