Recently, I sat up late at night reading (once again) Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. He quoted this hymn by John Newton, and it brought me to tears.
These Inward Trials
By John Newton
I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith, in love, in every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
I hoped that on some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“Lord, why is this?” I tremblingly cried,
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
“These inward trials I employ,”
“From self and pride to set thee free;”
“And break thy schemes of earthly joy,”
“That thou may’st seek thy all in Me.”
I read that and heard this voice reply to all of my frequent inward cries of “Why?” with: You asked for this. Not in the snarky, heartless way those worse are usually uttered. But with peaceful reassurance of the Refiner’s Fire which I’ve asked to be walked through so many times in my Christian life. Even this morning in my prayer time, I caught myself saying, “Lord make me more like You.” I almost laughed. How many times have I prayed that prayer or one like it? Who hasn’t at least prayed, caught up at a conference or camp or after a moving sermon, that God would sanctify her more and make her more like Christ? That is the Christian aim, after all, right?
I guess in all the years of asking that, I hadn’t really considered how it would be answered. I really did mean it, I just didn’t calculate the cost of sanctification. We make jokes about not praying for patience, because you’ll have to be in a hard situation to learn patience. But now I’m seeing that’s really true about all of the fruit of the Spirit and Christlike characteristics, isn’t it? I mean, what did I think? I would wake up one morning and be like, “Oh good, now I’m wise,” or “Finally, I’m more compassionate,” or the dozens of other things I’m now learning? Surely not.
This revelation has actually increased my patience and lessened my questioning (not eliminated it, but lessened it for sure). I asked for this refining, after all — so I need to be thanking God for His answer to all those prayers, instead of sulking in the delay of a relatively new one.