The School of Hard Knocks

Life during the past year had been the school of hard knocks for Karen. She had been slandered, betrayed, hurt, and seen loved ones pass away. Each time she thought she was getting back on her feet, another blow would come. The last one was when she heard that a good friend had believed lies about her and the relationship was adversely affected.

The Battle of the Heart

Every day Karen had engaged with a battle in her heart. She trusted the Lord and sought to think God-honoring thoughts, instead of the sad and hurtful ones that continuously flooded her mind. Times with the Lord had been precious as she knew his comfort and the reality of his grace and mercy. It was this experiential relationship with the Lord and seeking to think what is true, honorable, and just that was pulling and guiding her through her day.

Struck by Motive

Then something struck her about the Apostle Paul’s words during one of her quiet times.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV).

Karen thought about what it means to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus. Then she was struck that for the last while, her motive had been to get the Lord’s help for her hurt and sadness. The Lord had lovingly given her that. Yet when she read these verses, she knew she was ready to have a different motive, the motive of living for the upward call in Christ Jesus.

She read the rest of the letter to the Philippians and saw how Paul lived for Christ. In 1:20, he wanted to always honor Christ with his body. For him to live is Christ (1:21). He called the readers to live in a manner worthy of Christ (1:29). And he urged the readers to follow the example of Christ who humbled himself under the will of the Father, even unto death (2:5-11).

Living for Christ

As she reflected on what this would look like for her, she decided that in the first place it meant living for the Lord every day and seeking to become like him in her character. It also means that she would continue to allow him to change her thoughts and motives, as she had been doing. Like her Lord, she would humble herself under the Father’s hand in times of suffering, while trusting and becoming like him. Karen understood that these things are included in what it means to be living in a manner worthy of him.

From Sorrow to Love

As she continued to read, she was struck by the life of Timothy in 2:19-21. Unlike others who sought their own interests, he sought those of Jesus Christ. This was seen in him being genuinely concerned about other people’s welfare. Karen decided to start praying regularly for everyone in her small church and to visit one person a week to encourage them.

Karen’s story is an encouragement about how the Lord takes the brokenhearted and comforts them in their time of greatest difficulty. Yet it also shows how the Lord moves a person on from the depths of sorrow to, in his timing, become like him in his character and to seek to minister to others for their encouragement.