Written By: Matthew Mangaran
Earlier this week, my wife Clarissa wrote a blog on her birthday about maturing through her time in God’s presence, studying His Word, and fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. As I read it, I thought about my own journey and maturing process. If you heard our story on our YouTube channel, you would know that we’ve gone through many obstacles, both individually and as a couple. Being in the military definitely had its challenges, and those challenges led me to God. Whenever I was going through a trial, I would cry out to God and lean into Him. However, once I got through it, my focus on God would dwindle. It wasn’t until we made a firm decision to change our lifestyle and fully commit our lives to Christ that I saw the importance of having God in my life at all times.
I remember sitting through a Men’s Group, where we honed in on grace. We would meet on Friday nights in a trailer next to our barn-turned-church (The Bridge Christian Fellowship). I learned so much during that time, together with other brothers in Christ. I think it was a few months into the lesson when we read the following verse:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2 NLT)
Say what, now?!? If you would’ve asked me a few months before that study what I wanted to do on a Friday, I can tell you that a Men’s Group wasn’t it. I would’ve also looked at that verse and said that “joy” and “trials” do not go together. It may look like I’m smiling when I’m struggling with something, but really it’s just me gritting my teeth as I use everything in my power to complete a task. I mean, maybe there’s a reason why James didn’t have a lot of chapters in his section. Or, perhaps, it takes a whole new level of maturity to understand why we should have joy when we face trials.
In fact, I just went through a trial recently. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the “Stay at Home” order, I’ve been working from home for the past few weeks (thank God for a job that allows me to work from home!). To be clear, it is good to be home with my family and to spend more time with them, even if it’s just to say, “hello,” in-between meetings. Initially, I felt like I had to use this time at home to make up for lost time with the family, which is something that I dealt with while in the Navy after deployments and even when I first started at my current company after business trips. Unfortunately, I was struggling to balance my time at home with work, helping out around the house, running around with the kids, etc. It led to exhausting nights where I just wanted to sit on the couch and watch mindless shows instead of engaging my mind with fruitful content through conversations, readings, etc. I would try to be a good husband by taking on responsibilities in the house, but then I was too tired to give her my attention at night (and even throughout the day). I would try to be a good father by running around with the kids outside, but then I was too tired to read them a story at night, and I was easily irritated by them. Despite having gone through this before, knowing the right thing to do, and where I should seek strength, power, and energy, the enemy had a grip on my mind. I couldn’t shake him.
People ask me, “How do you do it? You have a wonderful family with a loving wife and respectful kids, and you have a great attitude when you lead your team at work.” Ha.. That’s flattering, but I don’t feel like I have it all together. Still, how do I do it? It’s through God’s grace. It wasn’t until I really broke down and cried out to God to help me with my situation. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill the house. I declared that I wouldn’t listen to the enemy’s lies about how I am doing as a husband, father, and leader. During this time where I was weak and exhausted, that’s when “the power of Christ [worked] through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT). So, I should “take pleasure in my weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT).
“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong…” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT)
Maybe that’s the point. Just because I struggle sometimes and have moments when I’m not tapping into the fruit of the Spirit, that doesn’t mean I’m not a good enough husband, father, or leader. Other people understand how difficult life is, sometimes even when they don’t have a family to take care of! I know I’m not perfect, but I’m progressing. These trials and victories are the stories we share about God’s love and grace in order to be “true ministers of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:4 NLT).
“In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.” (2 Corinthians 6:4 NLT)
So, maybe James wasn’t so wrong, right? There is joy knowing that God was right there with me, listening to my concerns and giving me the strength to move forward in victory. There is joy knowing that the trial would just be another part of my testimony for others to get closer to God. There is joy knowing that the enemy sees how much of a threat I am to him that it felt like he was double-teaming me! Finally, James says it best; there is joy “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4 NIV).
Written By: Matthew Mangaran
To hear our testimony, visit our YouTube channel, “Unshakable Love.”