Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trials and Triumphs: Refining faith

Many of you may know, but some may not: On November 11, 2011 my ex-husband kidnapped my two small children as he exited his life in the United States. He returned to Tunisia broken from failed attempts to make a life in the U.S., and in a last effort to stick it to me, took my babies with him.  Due to laws and protocols I dislike to understand, the journey to bring them home is longer than any mother would like.  But this isn’t a blog about international relations. For more information, see 

This is a blog about faith.

Webster’s defines faith as: belief that is not based on proof. 

I heard once that there is a refining purpose of trials.  That refining purpose is to test one’s ability to overcome; to stretch oneself to increase reliance on what is unseen.  Faith.  This is not to say that there are not times where we weep in sorrow for what is, or question our sanity for believing in what has yet to occur.  It is to say, though, that in the end, faith is believing God has determined our victories at the start of every adversity and choosing to believe that, no matter what happens from day to day.  It is up to us to believe in the outcome, and proceed toward that end.

God places trials on our path for various reasons.  Sometimes it’s to test us, and sometimes it’s to challenge those around us.  One must be certain that no thing that exists is by coincidence.  What God sets forth for man, he sets forth in full.  There is no accident in his plan.  But there are absolutely mistakes in our meandering through the journey.  But how can we change, grow, or affect the lives of others if we do not walk the trail, stumble, and then get back up?

Sometimes it may seem unfair the number of adversities we must go through, or the kind may seem too harsh.  But if one firmly believes that God does not burden a person with that which he is unable to handle, then one has the assurance that whatever comes to him, God has made the way.  The challenge of faith, of course, is not simply in having it, but in exercising it.  And one thing that must also be present is patience.  An insightful man explained to me that we can be assured of a victory in faith, but we must also respect that victories come in God’s time. …God’s time…phew…that’s a hard one…

While I wish beyond belief that I was not being tried in this way, I have to pause and thank God in so many ways.  Sounds weird? Bear with me through a quick story, and maybe it’ll make more sense:

Last month I had to run from court to court to get certain things in place.  While at the restroom sink one afternoon, I heard a woman screaming in the corridor.  Clearly the woman was mad – possibly in all senses of the word.  I was happy to continue applying lipstick until I was sure she was gone. 

Moments later a young lady entered the rest room.  She stood at the sink quietly for a few seconds, caught my eye in the mirror, and then started yelling.  Oh yeah, it was her!  What to do? Do I excuse myself kindly and quickly? I didn’t know.  So, I froze…and I stared back at her in the mirror as she yelled. 

Suddenly I stopped tuning in to my own thoughts and started tuning in to her words.  She was hurting.  She was angry…at a man.  From what I could gather; she had offered a service for money, and then was put in jail, and her money was taken away.  That’s all I cared to get. 

I could not judge her, could not blame her…I could only hear the words of a woman who was hurting.  So I turned to her, looked her in her eyes, and whispered, “it’ll be okay”.  And I meant it. Why? I don’t know. Why a whisper? I don’t know.  I know it calmed her down.  I half suspect she assumed my hijab indicated I was a nun instead of a Muslim, but she clearly identified me as a woman who could pray for her.  So she asked me to pray for her.  

She gave me her name and then asked me what to do. I told her to leave.  Whatever it was, leave.  She thought about it, asked me to pray again, and then asked for a hug.  I gave her one.  A big one.  And I reassured her that she had the power to control her life.  Then I left. 

In the midst of what I was going through - anxiety, missing my babies, wondering if the courts would help - I was thankful for nothing else than that I was NOT in that woman’s shoes.  And so it hit me.  Like a bolt of lightning I got it:  God prepares for us the trials that he prepares us to overcome. 

If I were to wish for someone else’s adversity, I’d have one far worse than I can imagine undertaking.  The same would be true for anyone looking at what I’m going through.  Who could possibly want to experience this!?

And so, I thank God, for the trials he gives me, and pray for the overcoming of all of those who carry a burden I’d never wish to have. 

I thank God that my children are physically safe.  I thank God that they are not ill.  I thank God for the deep faith he allows me to have for their return.  I thank God for the lessons I’m learning.  I thank God for the example he has allowed us to be.  I thank God that in a time of need my circle of friends has not diminished, but increased in an amazing way.  I thank God that every day he blesses me in so many ways, that I can’t look at what I am going through and say, why me?  And mostly, I thank God for the faith that tells me that though I don’t know the reason, I know the answer:  It was meant to be.

In life and adversity our emotions change from day to day.  Our mental and physical health fall prey to stress and anxiety.  Our humility gets tested, and our egos suffer.  The trick, I believe, is to place our trials back in God’s hands, and lead from where he guides us.  And if we follow his direction right, we may even have the chance to positively impact the lives of those who follow.  And what greater victory can there be than that? 
At least that’s what I choose to believe.   

There are many facets of faith that I could still explore, but this is the direction in which I was led today.  What does faith mean to you?

If you wish to support the return of my children, please sign our petition at: 

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