Do we really think our lives take God by surprise? The moments that take our breath away… When you realize a friend has betrayed you, you get a bad report from the doctor, or maybe your family has lost their income with no warning. All heartbreaking scenarios, but so real to many of us. As a pastor's wife, I have had my own battles with betrayal, hurt, adultery and loss. If we believe God is who He says He is, then He is all knowing, all present, all powerful. Our pain does not surprise Him. As a matter of fact the Bible clearly says to expect trial. Not because He is the creator of the trial, but because we live in a fallen world where sin is present.
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
The Bible not only states that trials will happen but asks us to count it as pure joy. Hold on, Joy? How? Let’s not get cynical here. We sometimes see God as not fully understanding what’s going on. “Surely He didn’t ok this!” But, we do not serve an insensitive God!
Hebrews 4:15 says For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
God became flesh so that you and I would have a Savior who can relate to every hurt, pain, disappointment and temptation. I always go back to the 40 days in the desert. Jesus had to feel unheard and forgotten about. Think of the physical pain of fasting and the emotion of loneliness. He did that for us so that we may see an example of how to react and press on.
Over the last few weeks the process of “pressing” has been heavy on my heart. As I think about the pressing of life, I’m reminded of the process. Let’s take the process of olive oil. Olives are put into the press so that oil is produced. Oil was one of the most versatile products in Biblical days. Olive oil was used as a cooking oil, food, lighting fuel, for soap making, religious ceremonies and medicinal use. No one threw an olive in a lamp stand to light, though. It had to be pressed first to produce oil.
It had to be pressed first to produce oil.
This paints such a picture of life. Why does God allow trials? To produce a life of power and perseverance. Oil was also a symbol of anointing. Without pressing there is no oil and without oil there is no anointing. Think about what oil represented in the Old Testament. David was anointed with oil as king, Elijah found Elisha in the field, anointed him with oil and called him as prophet and priest. The disciples anointed the sick with oil and they were healed. Oil represented calling, value, healing. We need to be pressed to produce anointing for what God is calling us to do.
I think we have it wrong. I knew as a pastor’s wife that people were watching me. In September 2012 my entire world came crashing down. The enemy came to kill, steal and destroy our church and staff. A crafty scheme was put together by the enemy and I was betrayed by my husband and closest ministry partner. I couldn’t have written a better plan myself. It was perfectly set up. "An exhausted pastor who felt like he had to hold the world up with his own hands." Because of normal tension in our home he was feeling less than heroic as a husband. At work he found success, applause, and significance--and adoring staff members. The scheme began that led to a trap, that led to betrayal, that led to destruction. A person that I and my family loved deeply was tearing my family apart. This was not an outsider but a person who knew my struggles, my successes, my children, my heart in a way others didn’t. The enemy spun a web that did not take much effort to walk into.
The devastation was huge in my home...but it didn’t stop there. The community was rocked, the people, the families, the years of building ministry…ROCKED!
What would I say? How would I react? I didn’t react the way I thought I would. I assumed, if this ever happened to me, I would have to leave only because I wouldn’t be able to look at my husband the same way again. But God’s grace is sufficient. I didn’t leave and I see my husband today as more of a man of God than I ever had previously. God allowed me to see the big picture. It was a long process and a big fight but I chose to fight instead of run. I couldn’t go into a safe house and get through it. I had to face the crowd. I had a spotlight on me. I had to walk the streets and see people who had been hurt, who had so many questions. It was a lot of pressure. My friends saw me crushed and saw me hate. They also saw me choose to forgive, even though it felt so much better to hate. They saw me have to choose it over and over, even though I wasn’t 100% sure I was really forgiving.
Living under this pressure can tempt you to be fake. Let’s face it, we don’t want to be responsible for leading people in a wrong direction. This is a heavy responsibility. I have discovered something HUGE that we can all learn from.
The world doesn’t need another polished pastor’s wife!
The world needs to see stories of redemption. I AM a redemption story only by the grace of God. Not because I was strong enough or good enough or polished enough, but because I walked with the One who is bigger than my circumstance. I didn’t do it, HE did. It was His strength, His mercy, His love. When we are at our weakest, He shows His power. We have to see people walk through fire and come out, not only alive but unharmed and better because of it.
Although none of us want to be the poster child for cancer, sexual abuse, adultery, failure, maybe we should be. Maybe we should be the trophy case of grace. I know what you are thinking, “If I open myself up I may get hurt or misjudged. People may look at me differently”. We can’t control the perception of others, but isn’t it worth bringing hope to the lost and hurting? Were we not rescued ourselves to rescue others?
2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
It’s our mandate! I get the call often, “Uhm Ashley, I was told you may be able to help me. I think my husband has been unfaithful.” As I open the door again, I do so, knowing I CAN NOT KEEP THIS GIFT of grace and compassion I was given. I have to share the hope that was shared to me. People need your redemption story! I must give credit to Jesus who is loving, gracious and POWERFUL, and who can take any situation and turn it into a beautiful love story. How selfish would it be to stay in my safe home and breathe in all the love from a restored marriage, incredible kids, and new seasons? Did he rescue me for me? No, I don’t think so.
"So how am I supposed to be thankful for a trial?"
I don’t believe we are supposed to count the actual trial as joy but we are supposed to count what it produces as joy. I am thankful for what my trial produced! My story made me stronger. It made me take my focus off of things that do not matter, as well as my own insecurities, and turn my attention to Him, the Savior.
There are many reasons I am thankful for my story. I Am Here! Ministry is not for the faint of heart. I could have walked away because the pressure was too much. Don’t do it! Stand firm! We have to dig our heels in sometimes, look past our circumstances and remember the call on our life. God did not make a mistake!
Be thankful for what will be produced in the trial you are going through. Your pain has purpose. I believe life-changing anointing comes from the press.
2 Corinthians 4:8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
I had questions in my own trial. Why was my prayer of protection not answered? After walking through it, I learned my prayer was answered. My purpose and future was protected. My prayer life drew me to an intimate place with God that I had never known before. It prepared me to hear His voice and understand His word more deeply than I could have fathomed. His will is to transform hearts and lives through trials. The depths of His love are sometimes found in desperation and abiding in Him--when you can’t face tomorrow because tomorrow is too painful.
There is a bigger picture. Allow God to be in control. Thank Him for what He is producing in you!
I Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Ashley Simmons has been married to her wonderful husband, Tim, for 18 years this July. They have served in ministry together since the day they were married. Tim and Ashley have 2 beautiful children, Cole 14 and Kennedy 13. Tim serves as Executive Pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Olive Branch, MS and Ashley serves on staff at the Guest Services Director. Her hobbies include "having two teenagers! It is quite time consuming." Ashley loves to write, share her story and minister to women. Before coming to Life Fellowship, Tim and Ashley traveled and spoke on the restoration of marriages. The tour was called, For Love For Life. The enemy wants to destroy the family but they have seen God turn ashes in beauty! Read more from Ashley at www.ashleylsimmons.com
"Thankful in the Trial" is Entry TWO in our November series, #grateful. Don't miss one week of this powerful series! To read Entry ONE, click here. To continue to ENTRY THREE, click here.