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“And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”   At once the Spirit sent him into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.         Mark 1:11,12

God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.  This sentence began an article from my files written by a man named Mark Galli.  It is not what we are used to hearing—or wanting.

The baptism of Jesus marked the beginning of his ministry.  It was a wonderful affirmation for him by the heavenly Father.  The earlier verse even mentions that the Spirit descended upon him like a dove.  What a wonderful beginning.

We don’t usually read of that occasion joined with the verse that follows.  We tend to separate the baptism event from the temptation event in the wilderness.  We would likely rather stay in the wonder of the baptism blessing without such close proximity to the trial and temptation that followed.

Yet, for most of us, the Christian faith has not been trouble-free.  Sometimes the trouble comes almost before the wonder of conversion has settled in.  It is not uncommon for a person to make a commitment to Christ and immediately find that life is filled with challenge and with difficulty.  I have often tried to encourage folks who experience such things, not as something out of the ordinary, but often as a common path.  It seems to me the one most likely to fall out of bed is the one who is still right at the edge of it.  New commitments and recommitments are much like the edge of the bed.  Satan must know this quite well.

It is not that God wants to unduly test us.  It is not that God takes pleasure in our difficult circumstances.  I am an earthly father.  I have never particularly wanted difficult things for our sons.  Neither do I think that the heavenly Father delights in such things.

We do know, however, that difficult things can work good things in our lives.  Like training for the athlete, difficulties and trials can help to build “faith muscles” and deeper trust and reliance upon God.  The biblical writer, James, wrote something similar when he said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

In this month when we often think of that for which we are thankful, perhaps we can give thanks for even the more difficult things that have marked our lives, even our present.  God is always at work for good.  We can be sure of that.

It may also seem strange, but true that God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life. It is revealed in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and throughout.  Yet, the good of his difficulty is our salvation and our hope.  Thanks be to God!