Who wouldn’t want to be “mature and complete, not lacking anything?” But who would want the many discomforts that lead us there? The road to maturity is never an easy one, but God loves his children too much to deliver them from the path that leads to such a good destination.
From a prison cell in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the believers in the city of Colossae, and shared with them a prayer that, at first glance, seems underwhelming. After praying that they would know God more and live lives worthy of him, he goes on to ask that they would be “…strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
Strength. I need it. I can get behind a request for power and glorious might. Yes! Give me that! And with the glorious power of God himself give me…
Great endurance and patience.
Is that all, Paul? Couldn’t we pray for a stunning victory over all obstacles and opposition, all trials and troubles? Isn’t God’s glorious might enough to ask for more than just patience?
It is, of course. And there are times when Paul does ask for immediate deliverance. There are also times when God says “not yet”—like when Paul asks three times for the physical suffering caused by his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed, and God says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Which means that when Paul prayed this for the Colossians, he knew very well that there are times when God doesn’t immediately save us from the hard things in life, and he also knew very well that God always has his reasons. Sometimes, God’s glorious might is given to us in the strength to endure, not in immediate release. Sometimes, these seasons when we have to walk through the wilderness of weakness and trouble are the times when our faith grows stronger, our priorities grow sharper, and our character, compassion, and confidence in God grow deeper. James takes the same point even further in his New Testament letter, telling us that we can “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”