Times of trial
Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House
Farming families still make up a large part of the communities I serve. The very wet weather during August has made the corn harvest very difficult. The threat has been real that this year’s exceptionally heavy harvest would be lost. The worst weather continued until mid September when mercifully the skies cleared and the crops and the land dried sufficiently for all to be safely gathered in.
In the gloomiest days of early September I attended a meeting of local Christians, many of whom were farmers, and I asked one of them to lead us in prayer for the farming community. He began in a striking way; ‘Thank you heavenly Father for this time of trial and testing. By your grace help us to trust in you,’ he continued; ‘we pray for all our friends and neighbours who are anxious and full of fear,; we pray that they too may come to know you and see your face in Jesus our Lord.’
That prayer was a moment of revelation to me. It is true that times of testing do strengthen us, do open up our deepest need to God, we become poor before him, and it is true as Our Lord teaches in the beatitudes that ‘those who know their need of God are blessed.’
My friend really did sound as if this time of trial was something to rejoice in. He certainly saw it as a time when the peace beyond understanding, the fruit of his faith in Christ, was also a witness to his neighbours. It seemed to me that I was learning a lesson about the Grace of God.
The opposite to living in God’s Grace is self sufficiency; this self sufficiency is the result of believing that the world’s purpose is to meet one’s needs. This is expressed in the attitude ‘I owe it to myself or ‘I deserve this’. Such an attitude perceives life in a material way and understands that self worth can only be measured by possessions and the satisfaction of appetite. This is not a life enhancing attitude; it is rather enslavement to death and the fear of death.
The Christian farmer who welcomed the opportunity to renew his trust in God was beginning from a very different place. He began with the fact of the resurrection of Jesus – his overcoming of the world. In all the trials and tribulations of life he expressed the conviction of St Paul that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.’ He could make the Scripture his own when it teaches ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’
When the sun came out, and the combines ploughed through the fields showering dust in a golden shower I have no doubt my friend rejoiced – thanking God, giver of all good things. For him the chorus ‘all good gifts around us’ will be sung with gusto at the Harvest Festival.
The wonderful truth is that even in the challenges of daily life, unwelcome as they may be, God is still pouring out his gifts into our laps – if we will but trust him and receive.