Seeing our trials as opportunities
The day the Capitol was attacked I was on the N train headed to Astoria for a doctor’s appointment. Now mind you, I live all the way in New Jersey so by the time I got on the N train, I was already two hours into my commute. Though exhausted after working a full day, at that point, I only had about 30 or so more minutes to my stop so I was pushing through.
Then the train stopped. The engine shut off. The lights went out.
At first I thought nothing of it. The NYCT subway system is wrought with all sorts of issues. I was sure this, whatever it was, would’ve resolved itself within a few minutes.
It did not. Why didn’t I just drive my car?
The train conductor then announced there was a power outage and we would have to sit tight for further instructions.
As the minutes dragged on with no clarity, tensions began to rise and the passengers were becoming visibly on edge. One guy started to complain about how much he needed to pee. Sighs, curse words and teeth sucking could be heard all throughout the train car. Then the conductor announced they couldn’t find the power outage and he had nothing further to tell us for now. Nothing except that they were closing all the doors in the cars so we’d better stay put and open a window if we were hot or couldn’t breathe.
The guy who needed to pee was losing it so bad, I guess, because of the claustrophobia and, well, the fact that he needed to pee. He began to scream, curse, yell how we were going to die and it began to get to everyone. One guy tried to help him figure out how he could relieve himself but there was nothing we could do being locked inside. At this point we are about 45 minutes in and I could feel myself begin to hyperventilate. It was so hot and my mask was sticking to my face. About an hour later and it became clear to me I wouldn’t make my appointment.
The guy who needed to pee announced that he was about to pee on the train. Everyone seated close to him got up and moved and sure enough, he relieved himself right there. Right there in the locked, airless, powerless, subway car.
My stomach was in knots. And I was hyperventilating.
Just then someone decided to announce that they’d attacked the Capitol. I’d seen it on the news that morning but hadn’t paid much attention as I’d been busy all day. Perhaps this was an attack as well, the person shouted.
Guy who just peed said, “this is it. We’re going to die here.”
It was at that point that I remembered I was a Christian. It was at that point that I remembered that I knew how to pray and that I had access to an all powerful all mighty God who could turn any situation around. We were now an hour under the tunnel and not once before this moment had it occurred to me to pray.
I took my mask off and said just above a whisper, “Father in the name of Jesus, I need you to move this train. Father, in the name of Jesus, please intervene and move this train now.”
As soon as I finished praying, the conductor announced that the men were walking the tracks on foot trying to find where they lost power but couldn’t find it. We had to just be patient.
Guy who just peed kept shouting “we are definitely going to die here.” I rebuked it under my breath.
Again, I asked God, “please make them find the outage and move this train now.”
Not even five minutes later, the lights and engine came back on. The conductor announced that though the power was restored we would be headed back to Manhattan as there was no train service to Queens.
I had no choice but to head back home to New Jersey. Tired. Defeated. Confused. I’d just wasted all this money and all this time. For nothing.
I was a bit annoyed at God. I thanked him for moving the train but I couldn’t understand why when I prayed the night before and the morning of the appointment that the Holy Spirit didn’t just tell me not to go. I said, “God you tell me everything else. Why couldn’t you just tell me when I was decreeing and declaring about this doctor’s visit, “Keciah, don’t go.”
As I laid in bed that night it occurred to me: I prayed. I asked God to bless my going and coming. I asked him to protect me and be with me and even give me good news at the doctor’s office. Yet, He still allowed me to leave New Jersey and head to Queens. Why?
Could it be there was something he needed me to see?
So I prayed, “Holy Spirit, you already knew I would never make it to this appointment but you still allowed me to go, what did you want me to see?”
The answer came.
“I allowed you to go so your faith life could be put on display. I allowed you to see and experience what it looks like when you’re stuck in an uncertain and unnerving situation and the hearts of men begin to fail because of fear.
I wanted you to see yourself and by your response, strengthen your faith.”
Mind you. I’d been praying to God to give me perfect faith. Man…. was I wrecked.
James 1:2-3 in the MSG version says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.”
And, boy, did my faith life show its true colors that day.
It showed me that my first response was annoyance and resignation. Then when everyone else was falling into fear, there I was descending into the darkness right alongside them. And it was only at the mention of death that I remembered I had a God.
But it also showed me that when I was bold enough to ask God to move the train, he did! And it also showed me that instead of being annoyed and considering the day a wasted one, I had faith enough to know this wasn’t a random occurrence and that God had a purpose behind it all.
James 1:2 in the NLT version says, “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity…”
Our trials are opportunities and we have to learn how to profit from them. We profit from them by being patient and prayerful and allowing our endurance to grow. Then, as James teaches, when our endurance is developed we will be complete in our spiritual maturity.
Romans 5:3-5 also teaches us that trials produce endurance in us, endurance produces the strength of character [of one who is tried and endures] and our endurance produces hope.
So we see, dear friends, that our trials are a peculiar gift, where if met with patience (and not grumbling or anger) can develop us into people of faith who are mature and strong.
God walks with us through our trials. We are never left to endure them alone. And if we remember that he is always with us, then when troubles of any kind come our way we can understand that these are simply opportunities he has orchestrated or allowed for our faith to be developed. Then we can profit from them.
If 2020 taught us anything… it was that we needed faith and endurance.
So next time a trial comes your way, pause, breathe and remember this is an opportunity. So make the transaction: trade your worry with faith and let it develop your endurance. “Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.” Heb 6:12.
Don’t waste your trials friends.