2 Corinthians chapter 4 is a description of what can be expected of the Christian life. Pressed, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We are also told to count it all joy when we encounter “fiery trials”, because it produces something great in us (James 1). We see this illustrated in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Job, Jesus, Stephen, Paul, Peter and many other notable Biblical characters, yet modern Christians do everything in our power to insulate ourselves from fiery situations.
I will use my life as an example. For the last two years I have fought God every step of the way as he led my family into a “fiery trial”. If I had believed the portions of scripture, from the first paragraph above, and the examples of the Biblical characters, I would have counted it all joy to be called out. Unfortunately, I did not count it all joy. I tried to figure out what I could “do” to get myself out of the trial. God, in his mercy, steadfastly refused to let me DO anything.
I have recently been reading the works of Miguel De Molinos, Jeanne Guyon and Francois Fenelon. All three of these authors lived 300-400 years ago and wrote about the need for a deep spiritual relationship with God. One that goes beyond “doing”, in the physical alone. Not that doing is a bad thing (see all of the book of James), but that doing can be the evidence of an immature relationship with Christ. See this quote from Molinos:
“Those who are spiritual externally seek God by reasoning, by the things they imagine, by long periods of consideration…they endure pain to obtain virtue. They delight in talking about God. They delight in being very fervent in love, and even being skilled in prayer. They are seeking to obtain greatness by doing things. They believe that God abides close to them only by their“doing” the above-mentioned things. This is the way of beginners! Experience has shown that many believers, even after 50 years of external exercise, are void of God”
-Miguel De Molinos
This quote allowed me to see myself in the harsh light of reality. Sadly, it has taken nearly two years of struggling with my own blinding pride to be able to see my relationship with God for what it is; An immature effort to do things for God. That is why I can say that God, in his mercy, has refused to let me “do” anything. This does not mean that our family will never do anything, on the contrary. I believe God led us into this dry, barren place, pressed us and perplexed us with the intention of making us into a usable vessel, so he can “do” through us. See this additional quote from Molinos:
“There is another spiritual person, the one that has passed beyond the beginning and walks toward the inner way. Such believers withdraw into the inward parts of their spirits and there relinquish everything about themselves into the hands of God. They have forgotten and despoiled themselves of everything. And not only things, but themselves. You can be sure that such people have passed through great tribulation, and all of that tribulation came to them because it was ordained by God.”
– Miguel De Molinos
Molinos was accused of heresy for these statements. He was placed on trial, found guilty and imprisoned for life. The church’s official position, regarding Molinos, is that he recanted his heretical statements before his imprisonment. Unfortunately, the court records are sealed, to this day, and no one was able to speak to Molinos to confirm this before his death in prison. I believe that Molinos was tried by people much like myself. Full of pride and unwilling to admit that their relationship with God was that of a beginner. Being a beginner is not a bad thing, it is when we refuse to mature (see 1 Corinthians 3) that being a beginner becomes bad for you.
I have now resolved to allow God to continue the good work he has started in my family, without my hindering action. I will lean confidently into his hand and allow myself to be pressed, perplexed and persecuted, because I know he is molding me and my family into usable vessels.