Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
About fifteen years ago, long before I came to faith in Christ, a friend and I had planned a last minute cottage trip the Thursday afternoon before a long weekend. Since neither of us had made any plans for the weekend, we decided to go all out on our cottage trip.
We both had grown up with fathers who were outdoorsman and so we knew how to handle ourselves very well camping in the wild, but we also had no hesitations about availing ourselves to the modern amenities of RV’s and cottages now that we were able to plan our trips ourselves.
All of our paths we had quickly traced out:
– we’d need to season up a box of chicken legs, shrimps, steaks and burgers ready for the grill beforehand.
– we’d carry eggs, turkey bacon, toast, a frying pan, cooking oil, and various other seasoning and dishes for an extravagant breakfast, lunch & dinner.
– we’d need to pack a bag of extra clothes, hygiene necessities, and sleeping bags.
– we’d need to pick up firewood, lighter fluid, and be sure to have a lighter.
– and of course, (back then) we’d need a case of beer, a few packs of smokes, and a bottle of something as an alternative to beer, along with a couple bottles of juice and chaser.
As you can already tell, when we pursued something, we did so with great attention to detail.
Just like the same effort some people put into planning their birthdays, vacations, extravagant receptions or various other occasions special to them, we gave ourselves wholly to the task.
But with less than twenty four hours standing between us and the beginning of our adventure – a three hour drive Northeast of Toronto – my friend and I had much to get done to ensure all was in order.
So I set off to a nearby grocery store, liquor store, and Shopper’s Drug Mart to acquire the ‘necessities’ for our trip.
Meanwhile, my buddy had some vehicle maintenance that he had been putting off that urgently needed to be tended to if we wanted to get there safely. So he also set himself to task.
When I was growing up, we often used the word “missions”, but we never meant the same thing that I now mean when I say it within a Christian context today, but interestingly enough, a lot of the variables are the same as I hope you’ll soon see.
After a long afternoon of labouring from one store to another to gather our supplies, and my friend going from one shop to another trying to acquire both the parts and the installation of those parts to secure his vehicle, the day was long spent.
I didn’t give him the ‘it is finished’ call until late almost 2am, and he was still tending to his truck on the driveway when I did.
We had plan to set on our way at 7:00am that Friday morning which was now only a few hours away, in order to beat the traffic and get a good head start into our weekend.
When I awoke however, my buddy had not slept the entire night. He stayed up trying to resolve a mechanical issue and now at his wits end, needed to tow his truck to an actual mechanic to complete.
I took a cab to meet him with a duffel bag and two large coolers of food and drink.
We could tell the day was going to be a hot one as the sun rose, and we met around 8:30am at the mechanic shop who was only working half-day in anticipation of the long weekend.
We began with replacing the brakes and brake lines, and ended by uncovering that he also required a new gas tank, gas lines and gas pump.
We were able to acquire everything except the gas pump. And the only place in town that had it for his vehicle was now closed until the following Tuesday.
It was well past noon and we began to wonder if maybe we were not even supposed to go to the cottage this weekend. Like, maybe this was a divinely appointed thwarting of our determined efforts in order to keep us from some ‘unknown harms’ that lay ahead that we were currently unaware of.
It’s funny how our minds work sometimes. If we really want to, I’m certain that we can find a way to justify just about any course of action we take in life. (Something definitely worth reflecting more deeply upon.)
I, however, quickly put away the thought. We had put far too much effort into this day and far too much work into getting this far. Why should we give up now?
So I resolved that maybe we could rent a car for the weekend. After all, we were right at a busy intersection that had many rental car companies. So we began up and down both sides of the busy road from company to company only to be informed that they were all completely booked up for the long weekend.
When we finally found a place that had a car available, we ran into a new issue since my license was suspended but I had a credit card, and my friend had a valid license but didn’t have a credit card. Since the renter must possess both, our only glimmer of hope quickly dwindled away.
It was then that my sister called me. I had given her my car to use since she had been in a recent accident so she could get to school since my license was suspended.
She came to pick us up along with our coolers and bags.
As she drove us home as we recounted the details of our day, I suppose sympathy overtook her heart and she decided to let us use my car since she didn’t have class for the weekend, and could get around by other means if she needed to for the few days.
Greatly encouraged, we began optimistically believing once again that we might actually make it to the cottage after all!
My sister dropped herself home and we began on our way to the nearest grocery store to acquire some ice to ensure that the coolers were still holding up.
By the time we reached the store we had realized that the back tire was flat. In fact, we could see the two-inch screw that was gorged into the base of the tire that punctured it.
Once again despair began to rear its ugly face. Was this a sign? How could so many things go wrong in one day?
My friend called CAA who he said would come patch up the punctured tire right on the scene.
The only problem was that there was a three-hour wait time since long weekends were notorious for service calls.
Once again, my mind purposed to action. I only lived a block away and had four chrome rims with tires on them in my garage. If we could somehow just get back to the house, I also had the tools to change a tire, and we could be on our way in less than an hour.
So carefully, we slowly drove out of the grocery store parking lot, now on a completely flat from tire, and down the street one block back into my complex and onto my driveway.
Upon our arrival, I quickly opened the garage and threw three rims with tires into the trunk to make up for the spare tire I didn’t have while my friend jacked up the car getting it ready for me to replace the one flat.
That was the fastest I’ve probably ever changed a tire in my life!
We were back on the road in no time yet it was close to 7:30pm by now. Before leaving for our trip, my friend reminded me that he had worked from the day before right into this new day. He still needed to pack a bag and wanted nothing more than to take a shower before we left.
So we headed from south Mississauga up to the northern most part of Brampton to accommodate him.
As we crept through the post-rush-hour 410 traffic north, all of a sudden we heard a loud pop! This sound was now all too familiar to us. Another tire had blown out! This time in the front.
We couldn’t believe our luck, but we had anticipated such a problem and were adequately prepared to resolve it in no time. Or so we thought.
We pulled over and removed another rim from the trunk. But to our horror, we quickly realized that we had left the appropriate tire iron for my vehicle back in my garage at home along with the car jack after we changed the first tire!
In order to avoid feelings of shame that day, I think a thought far worse than mere self-inflicted stupidity crept in to my thoughts. Pride. Then my frustrations quickly turned into sheer recklessness.
We already knew the wait-time for CAA. We already had been through failure after failure after failure that day. The truck problems, the rental car hindrances, and the punctured tire difficulties. I was intimately acquainted with resistance, and now I felt like something or ‘someone’ was actually fighting against us – whatever it was, it was not going to win!
So I told my friend to get into the passenger seat, and against all sound judgement, without a valid license, with sparks flying from the rim, I drove that car at least four kilometres to the next exit, and then a few more blocks to a nearby coffee shop after we exited.
Once we got there, now almost covered in the darkness of the night, we waved down vehicles asking for a tire iron and jack – but it also had to be of a similar make and model as my car in order for it to work which greatly decreased our odds of both finding the right car, and then a driver of such a kind heart so as to avail these tools to two young men at the fall of night.
Surprisingly, about an hour later, an elderly woman pulled into the plaza who assisted us with the very things we needed and so we were on our way. By the time we pulled up on the driveway of my friend’s home, it was probably just past 11pm Friday night.
Exhausted, discouraged, and wondering what the long weekend might hold for us now, we cracked two beers and sat back reflecting on all that had transpired on this uniquely eventful day.
We threw a few ideas onto the table as we talked about possibly salvaging the alcohol and food by having a backyard barbecue Saturday night, but everyone we spoke to that evening already had long weekend plans. Long weekends were like a community staple among the circle I grew up with. To be found without plans on a long weekend was like committing social suicide.
Not long into our conversation I looked up at my friend with a second breath of unusual hope reignited once again…. “do you still want to go to the cottage?” I said.
He smiled. We were mostly the best of friends because of our unusual tenacity and resolve for going the extra mile in circumstances just like these.
It didn’t take long for him to concede. “I’m in if you’re in!” he said. And we didn’t need to say any more than that. We quickly finished off our beers and began a checklist of check ups on the vehicle to ensure we would not be met with any more surprises. Oil levels, washer fluid, tire pressure, gas, a jack, spare tire, tire iron; everything we could think of.
Then, at almost 2:40am now Saturday morning, we began on our way. But before we left, almost as a novelty, we decided that maybe we should pray and ask “God” – whoever He was, to help us to get there safely. I was a former Muslim turned quasi-agnostic at the time, and my friend was brought up as a Hindu. Yet we joined together in prayer amidst desperation and clearly unusual circumstances and asked “God” to somehow bless our drive down to the cottage so we’d get there safely.
It was no easy drive. We stopped often for coffee breaks and to just splash our faces with water just to awaken a little while longer for the distant drive.
By the time we arrived the sun was now rising on Saturday morning. Since it was too early to check-in at our cottage, we drove over to my father’s lakeside cottage and sat on the docks watching the sun illuminate the skies with a variety of marvellous colours dancing across the almost endless waters as it met the horizon.
My friend quickly fell asleep in his lawn chair as I sat there marvelling in silence at the beauty of this glorious picture that nature was painting at the end of all that had transpired in the past maybe thirty three hours.
The more I looked upon that sunrise this particular morning, I realized how glad I was that I never gave up; how happy I was to have a friend who would go the distance with me; and how privileged I felt to now behold such a beautiful awesome vision at the end of all these difficult trials of the days before.
Every second of our struggles were worth it!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The day when I first read these words, I closed my eyes and asked the Holy Spirit to show me the depth of its meaning, and oddly enough, the details of this experience I shared today came vividly flashing through my mind.
Now in a Christian context, this once seemingly foolish pursuit of a cottage weekend with the boys in my adolescent years now serves as a beautiful image of encouragement of the call all Saints have to perseverance and patient endurance in pursuit of our sanctification, the good we’re called to do, and to missions that bring the Gospel to the world!
It also reminds me of the winding roads we sometimes must traverse to victory. And that prayer has far more bearing on the outcome of our circumstances than we are sometimes willing to believe. And that whether we acknowledge it or not, Jesus hears our every prayer and intimately knows every detail of our lives – even when we didn’t know Him.
Amidst so many battles with doubt and fear, persecution, trials, adversities, and even our own struggle with sin, the driving force in our efforts to forge ahead – and encourage others to do so also – should be firmly footed upon the very absolute *hope* we have in what Jesus Christ has already accomplished by his death and resurrection that strengthens our resolve to not let anyone or anything steal our hearts visions of this glorious future whose beauty we sometimes cannot even begin to fathom; to which we can absolutely look forward to with all certainty of the wondrous brilliance of His appearing at the end of our journey!
Hope is essential because it is our ability to bring a piece of that very certain future glory into every trial that exists in the here and now that encourages us to press on to the end.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Which is why I’ll continue to implore you,