Girlfriends in God - July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009 
Beautiful Irritations 
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth 
Isaiah 45:3 (NIV) "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places..."

Friend To Friend 
Life can be so irritating!  More often than not, it is the little things that annoy me the most.  The lost set of keys.  The misplaced cell phone.  The ice-maker that refuses to do its job on a hot summer day.  The empty tea pitcher stuck back in the refrigerator.  But then there are times when people are the problem.  They show up uninvited or call when I am running out the door, late for an appointment I don't have time to keep.  Been there?

I am convinced that these tiny irritations are a tool in the hand of a loving Father who uses them as "heavenly sandpaper" to rub off some of our rough edges. 

I was invited to speak for a women's conference based on the theme, "Pearls of Wisdom."  When I arrived at the conference center, I was greeted by women wearing pearl necklaces, pearl bracelets, pearl pins, hats covered in multicolored pearls ... you name it, and they wore it.  Each table was beautifully decorated with treasure chests overflowing with strands of pearls.  Oyster shells held candy mints that looked like pearls and each name tag was decorated with a single pearl.  It was amazing! 

I was warmly welcomed and then promptly introduced to the event director and leadership team who were excited and ready to go - except for one problem.  I was "pearl-less." I was quickly told that the speaker had to wear pearls of some kind. However, this creative group of ladies was not easily deterred and before I knew it, I was wearing a stunning pearl necklace - and it was real!  I could just see that necklace breaking while I was speaking, but before I could utter one word of protest, the owner of the necklace said, "Don't worry!  You can just give it back to me at the end of the conference."  And off we went!

I am what you might call an "active" speaker in that I cannot stand still and talk at the same time.  I get excited, pace the stage, arms waving and usually work up quite a sweat ... literally!  The "Pearls of Wisdom" conference was no exception.  In fact, it was a blistering summer day and the air conditioning was having trouble keeping up with the size of the crowd.  By the time I finished speaking, I was indeed "glowing."  I forgot all about the pearl necklace until its owner quietly slipped up beside me and said, "I have to leave and need to retrieve my necklace."  As she began to undo the necklace clasp, I apologized for perspiring all over her beautiful pearls.  She laughed and said, "Actually, it is good for them.  Human perspiration helps the pearls keep their luster." 

I am constantly amazed at the profound truths God has tucked into the simple things of life.  Pearls are formed when a piece of grit, sand or shell get trapped inside an oyster. It protects itself from irritation by secreting a nacreous liquid around the particle which eventually builds into a pearl.  In other words, what begins as an annoying irritant eventually becomes a valuable treasure.  The same is true in life.

Looking back, I can honestly say that the greatest treasures in my life have been discovered during the darkest times of my life.  A battle with clinical depression stripped away years of fear and doubt, leaving me with a new identity in Christ and a ministry I never thought possible.  The inability to have biological children made it possible to adopt our son and daughter, Jered and Danna, giving us a gift beyond measure.  Weaknesses have given way to strengths and failures have led to successes ... and God has used it all for His glory and my good. 

In God's economy, a mess is the perfect setting for a miracle, my friend.  At the center of every dark moment are a sliver of hope and a seed of victory.  God has gone before you, and in every trial or difficult circumstance you will face, He has buried a treasure. When the tough times come, look for the pearls.

Let's Pray 
Father, I am so sorry for the way I complain about my circumstances.  Please forgive me for my bad attitude when things don't go my way.  I want to see Your hand in every part of every day - good or bad.  Help me to face every storm with confidence, knowing that You really are in control.  May others see You in my life. 

In Jesus' name, 

Now It's Your Turn 
Read James 1:2-4 and answer the following questions:

What does the word "consider" suggest as a response to difficult circumstances?

What should our first response be to trials?

What does the testing of our faith produce in us?

What promise does James give us when we are faithful and choose to stand strong when life is hard?

How do these truths relate to your life today?

More From The Girlfriends 
I don't know about you, but I tend to look for the nearest exit when a storm hits.  Avoiding difficult people and complicated circumstances tends to be one of my most common goals.  But what I really need to do is cultivate an attitude of "But God..." in my heart.

"My husband has lost his job, but God will provide." 

"The doctors have said there is no hope, but God is the Great Physician."

"I don't know what to do, but God will lead me in the right way."

We live in uncertain times which demand a certain hope that can only be found in God.  Right now, choose faith over feeling.  Don't doubt in the darkness what you learned in the Light.  God is with you, friend.  Look for the pearls!

Need help? Check out Mary’s book, Sandpaper People for ways to handle the difficult people in your life who rub you the wrong way.  Mary also has an online Bible Study, Light for the Journey that offers encouragement and tools for spiritual growth.  Visit Mary’s online store for MP3 downloads and E-book Bible Studies, CDs and special gift items.

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Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.

Originally published Tuesday, 14 July 2009.