Gretchen and I moved to Louisville one year ago today. The word that best describes the year for me? Increase. We've grown through the ministry of our loving church family, through the friendships we’ve formed, and through the classes we’ve taken. And yet this increase has come in and through struggles of various kinds. Our faith has increased, yet we have known doubt and testing; our godliness has (we trust) increased, yet we have known sin and temptation; our commitment to and love for one another has increased, yet we have known strain; our knowledge has increased, yet we have often had to admit ignorance; warm friendships have formed and increased, yet we have known times of loneliness; our love for Christ and his gospel has increased, yet we have known seasons of spiritual dryness and coldness.I'm thankful for our (admittedly light) struggles. I'm convinced that the increase has come because of these struggles, not in spite of them. The Bible tells us in many places that this is God's way:
[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)One year ago, we didn’t know what was in store for us. Today, with hearts full of gratitude and joy we praise and thank you, O Lord, for your overwhelming goodness to us:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
In this [living hope] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so tha the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
I’m reminded of these verses from the hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”:
Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.