Paul mentioned a personal situation and asked those he taught in Galatia to recall the love that they had for him and for one another. “…you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a physical illness. You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. What happened to this sense of being blessed you had?” Even though the times were challenging, the church once had deep satisfaction and a grateful spirit when Paul was serving among them. Hardships and trials can bring about real bonding. Paul wrote a reminder of this because he didn’t want those he cared about to forget the joy that they once had together. He wanted them to go forward in peaceful blessedness.
Blessing and being blessed is God’s plan for our life story, but at times we forget, and other times our enemy would like to rob us of our sense of being blessed. Thinking about God’s love for us can help us assess the situation and calibrate our reactions appropriately. Then we can choose to bless.
Back in the days before cell phones, the over-night bus from Kunming to Lijiang normally took fourteen hours to wind its way through China’s developing countryside. Our young family of five and a fellow language student boarded with Oreo cookies – a rare treasure – to bless our friends that we were going to visit. Some time around midnight the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere. Thirty-something hours later, after dynamite had cleared a dangerous mountain road landslide, we hugged our anxiously waiting friends. We were greatly relieved that our bus did not go over a cliff, like some do, and we all laughed about the gifts of cookies becoming our survival food. To this day when I enjoy Oreos I remember that trip, my gratitude to God for our safe travel, and for the bonding created because of the “trial”. Remembering God can be the sweetest part of our days.
P.S. Small trials can prepare us for bigger ones. Our friend who studied Chinese with us in the mid-1990s has bravely weathered many trials without becoming bitter toward God. She diligently prays for those from whom the trials come, and in the pain she seeks hope and models faithfulness, beauty and trust.