Spilled Milk and Faith

Don’t cry over spilled milk. That old line sounds really good. I thought about it when my youngest literally cried over having spilled her milk at breakfast. And no, I did not use the line on my 5-year old! I’ve noticed, however, that there are times when I respond to trivial obstacles in my life outsized frustration. Times when I cry over spilled milk. Then, there are other times when I can face a comparatively large setback with level-headed optimism and a positive attitude. What’s the difference?

What about you? Do you ever cry over “spilled milk”?  Would you like to have a more optimistic or positive response to setbacks in your life? Well, God’s Word provides an abundance of insight into and motivation for joy in the midst of trials in this life. The key to our attitude regarding trials is our faith. To help understand this idea of faith, I want to talk about our perspective. Read this passage from 1 Peter chapter 1:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that 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. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:6-9 ESV)

The “this” in the first sentence is the new life we have in Jesus and the hope that we have because of our salvation. According to the opening lines in this passage, our salvation is something already done for us, and yet also coming in the future. God has caused us to be born again (verse 3), and yet we wait for and hope in a future inheritance (verse 4). In the meantime, we are guarded by God’s power and our faith (verse 5) for a salvation that will be revealed at the end of time.

So, we’re already God’s children, saved by grace through our faith in Jesus. And still, we’re not yet experiencing all of our inheritance while we’re still living in a broken world. Now, catch our response to trials in our life. We’re grieved by them. What? Maybe you thought I was going to say we rejoice in them? That’s not what the Bible says. Please catch this. We rejoice in our salvation even though we grieve the painful stuff.  “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…” Remember the “this” is our salvation.

So what about the trials? They are various. You already know that. Your trials come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from the unexpected illness to the son employer who doesn’t trust you on the team because you won’t follow an unethical sales practice. Trials are also temporary. They have a shelf-life. Some of the issues we get most upset over aren’t even long-term.

Here, we see that perspective matters. “A little while” to you may be “a lifetime” to me depending on my perspective. Now, perspective has a timeline and a purpose aspect to it in this passage. First, there’s a perspective of purpose. When we believe that trials can serve a purpose we find a reason to rejoice despite our pain. Here, we see that trials can test our faith. Why is that exciting? Well, not so that we prove ourselves strong and able. Instead, the testing of our faith can lead to “praise and glory and honor.”

We have an inheritance and a reward waiting for us on the other side of all of this life’s trials. When I value what I will eventually receive from God more than anything I can acquire on my own, my perspective matches God’s economy. We are invited to look forward, “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:4 ESV).”

For today, remember:

What you might see as an inconvenience, God sees as an investment.
What may feel permanent is only passing.
Your trials which seem purposeless may actually be purposeful.
Your shame may lead to shining, your pain to praise, and your humiliation to honor.

This great passage of Scripture also reveals a second aspect of our perspective that can lead us to rejoice despite trials: the right timeline. We’ll look at that in a future post.

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