I'm taking another short break in our series in Psalms to share with you a lesson I learned this weekend. As you know, Barnabas (our new dog) suffers from severe anxiety issues. As he's gotten to know and trust us, he's gotten much better, but he still has a difficult time with separation anxiety. . .especially where Jason is concerned. Yes, we realized that he reacts much better to my absence than he does to Jason's (talk about feeling loved!).
Anyway, in route to our hiking destination this past weekend, we needed to make a quick stop on the way. Jason typically goes into the store, leaving me to sit with the dog in the car, but with Barnabas' issue, we've been swapping roles. However, as we discussed this, we realized he would never learn if we didn't put him in the position to learn. Here's the gist of what I said, "I know he gets upset and freaks out, but he will never figure out how to deal with these issues unless we make him face them. I hate to do it to him because I know how anxious he gets, but I hope that, over time, he'll experience this type of situation enough to realize that everything is under control, and it's no big deal."
There's that heavenly thump in the back of my head. The words came out of my mouth, but I heard them in a different voice altogether. Instead of me talking to Jason about Barnabas, it was as if God was speaking to Jesus about me. "Yes, I know she gets upset and freaks out, but she will never figure out how to deal with these issues unless we make her face them. I hate to do it to her because I know how anxious she gets, but I hope that, over time, she'll experience this type of situation enough to realize that everything is under control, and it's no big deal."
I learned that exposure to stressful situations is not some cruel, cosmic joke or some form of punishment for the wrong I've done but rather a teaching experience. Through this experience with Barnabas, I feel I better understand what it means to go through tough times and what God expects from us. He hopes we will learn, grow, and increase our faith. He doesn't long to see us tired, weary and anxious, but He knows it's the only way we'll learn to trust Him fully. Sometimes, the only way to overcome a problem is to face it head-on time and again until we are victorious.
Barnabas is figuring this out as well. Jason went in the store, and while our poor pup pitched a bit of a fit, it was a smaller tantrum than it had been in times past. We also made another stop on the way home. This one was longer, but Barnabas did reasonably well. He's learning. He's understanding that he doesn't have to freak out every time he's unsure of what's taking place. He's beginning to comprehend we love him and have his best interest at heart. It may take several more tries before the fits stop altogether, but progress is progress, so I'm happy.
I wonder, though, can God say the same about me? Am I learning? Am I understanding? I believe I am. No, I haven't arrived, but progress is progress, and God is still working on me. He's still working on you too, so don't despair when you find yourself in difficult straits. Know that He loves you enough to do what's necessary to help you grow.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6