“Is God doing something new in your life?” was the question the leader asked in a group I was in recently. My friend Mindy, who is dealing with some difficult situations, responded. She told of needing patience with aging parents, stamina for her husband’s health issues, and understanding of her children and grandchildren who have not yet chosen to follow Jesus. Then she made an insightful comment that runs contrary to what we might normally think: “I believe the new thing God is doing is He’s expanding my capacity and opportunities to love.”
That fits nicely with the apostle Paul’s prayer for new believers in Thessalonica: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thess. 3:12). He had taught them about Jesus but had to leave abruptly because of rioting (Acts 17:1–9). Now in his letter he encouraged them to continue to stand firm in their faith (1 Thess. 3:7–8). And he prayed that the Lord would increase their love for all.
During difficulties we often choose to complain and ask, Why? Or wonder, Why me? Another way to handle those times could be to ask the Lord to expand His love in our hearts and to help us take the new opportunities that come to love others.
I’ve got my own list of things I could worry about, Lord. Change my thinking. Open my eyes to love.
Our troubles can fill our prayers with love and empathy for others.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is filled with warmth and tenderness for dear friends. He ministered in the midst of suffering, imprisonment, and persecution, but his passion for seeing people (like the Thessalonians) enter into relationship with Christ was undeterred. As a result, Paul endured these almost continuous hardships without losing his focus on the needs of people. This is clearly seen in 2 Corinthians 11:22–33, where Paul catalogues the price he paid for the gospel and for them. While we may never suffer as the apostle did, how might we wisely respond to the trials we do encounter so that others can be touched by God’s love?
For more on navigating through trials check out the Discovery Series booklet Change: Following God Through Life’s Crossroads at discoveryseries.org/q0734.