I'll never forget the first time my oldest son Aden heard the powerful sound of a train passing by our home. It was a spring day, he was only two years old, and he and I were in the yard; he was playing, I was doing some spring cleanup. I could hear the cars' distant rumble and the scraping steel of the wheels on the tracks getting closer as we both did our respective yard work. Then it happened, the train blew it's massive loud horn, echoing loudly across the lake near our home. In a split second, upon hearing the massive horn, Aden dropped what he was doing, turned as white as a ghost and ran to me, arms outstretched, terror in his eyes, yelling "AHHHHH," going as fast as his little legs would carry him. He looked like someone being chased by a pack of wolves.
Like any loving father would, I ran to him, scooped him up, kissed him all over, chuckled a bit at the innocence of his fear and the joy his knee jerk response brought me as he ran into my arms. I then assured him that there's nothing to worry about and that the train is powerful, but it can't hurt him here. "I've got you, buddy," I assured him.
That moment has vividly stuck in my mind the better part of a decade later because God used it to speak to me about a key dynamic of trials in life and understanding our relationship with Him. At the time, I had been going through the hardest season of my life, and it was in this moment that God spoke to me and brought some newfound clarity to the experience I was having. It was as though the Lord impressed this word on me.
"Son, I don't wish hardships on you, and I don't cause calamity to come your way, but I love when you run to me in the troubling times, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. In the same way you didn't cause the train to come along and scare Aden, certain things come along in life that are troubling and painful; however, they are all an invitation to run to me. I've got you buddy."
This moment with my son brought some real clarity for how I think about God and life's troubles. I didn't love that he was genuinely terrified, and I didn't enjoy that this experience brought momentary trauma on him; however, I loved that he ran to me the way he did. I wouldn't trade that special moment I had with my boy for anything.
I think this is one of the ways that we can understand the trials we come into in our lives. There is certainly much mystery as to why bad things happen to us who believe in and trust in an all-powerful, all-good God. That said, one thing we can know for sure is that the trials we face are always an invitation deeper into the arms of the Father.
Remember, Jesus taught us to pray every single day to "our Father in heaven," and from that realization, we pray the rest of the prayer, up to the point of "lead us not into temptation."
The word temptation here is not referring to being tempted (enticed) to compromise your integrity or virtue; it's speaking about trials. Jesus uses the Greek word "pierasmos," which translates as testing. Christ is talking about the problems and hardships we face in this life. He invites us to ask God to lead us away from troubles and trials. Here we not only have the heart and hope of God on record, but Jesus invites us to intentionally and specifically ask for His assistance to lead us away from trials and tribulations.
This prayer sounds like the hope of any good, loving parent, doesn't it?
God desires that we aren't harmed in this life, but helped. He wants us to experience joy, peace, maturity, and a long, fruitful life. That is His ultimate desire for us.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
This is the heart of God.
That said, we live in a world where sin, pain and death still play a huge factor in our experience. There are times in life where God allows us to go through difficulty; I don't know that we can understand all of the reasons, maybe there's a purpose, maybe "crap" just happens, in either case, Jesus doesn't really help us know the why. What he does do with this prayer, however, is get us to focus on the fact that God, our Father, doesn't wish us harm, but He wants the opposite, to help us! He invites us to pray the most protective, favour filled prayer we can over ourselves each and every day.
"Lead us not into temptation."
We can rest in this prayer, knowing that if temptation does come our way, God is not behaving unattentively or vindictively, but He is well aware of what we're going through, and more than that, is ready with open arms for us to run to him.
There may come a time that we, like my son with the train, hear a troubling sound, a diagnosis, a piece of heartbreaking news, but we can know that the Father is inviting us deeper into Him, and that is the safest place in the universe. That is a place not even death can get us.
May you rest assured today that He will lead you not into temptation, but should trouble come your way, He is inviting you deeper into His loving arms.
Grace and peace
"This, then, is how you should pray:
"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one." Matthew 6:9-13