when is suffering sifting?

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)

Let’s face it.   Fiery trials are not fun.  And yet, it seems like the more serious I get about following Christ, the tougher the resistance from the enemy.  Can you relate?  I’ve heard it said, “New level, new devils.”  Jesus warned Peter that Satan had demanded to “sift you like wheat.”  The “you” in this verse is plural.  It means “all of you.”  Or if you’re from the deep South like I am,  “Satan has asked to sift y’all like wheat…”

Several friends of mine have recently answered God’s call to serve in hard places.   Each one has hit a wall of one kind or another lately.  One of those is my friend Ashley.   In six short weeks, Ashley and Peter with their four small children (the youngest was just born a couple of weeks ago!) will leave all that’s familiar to take the Gospel unreached people in Japan.  A few months ago, I asked her if her family had experienced any “sifting” during this process?   I think you’ll be inspired by what she  shares about her season of sifting.

Guest Post:  SIFTING SEASONS:  by Ashley

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)

I do not fully understand this passage on sifting, but after a careful study, I feel like I have gone through three years of sifting without even realizing it. Three years ago I began praying for God to break my heart for what breaks his and this prayer left me in holy shambles.  It knit me to the heart of my Savior and rendered me broken, on my knees for the world.  When the Lord gives you just a glimpse, just a taste of his heart for those he created, everything that used to matter no longer lures you or fulfills you like it once did.

Three years ago I would not have called myself materialistic.  I was a thrifty, penny-pinching, stay at home mom to a spouse in ministry, always shopping consignment and finding new ways to save.  I learned how to cloth diaper and would go through the huge hassle of bringing items we no longer used to consignment just for the extra $10 in my purse.  I now see that this obsession with saving and selling was a form of materialism and complete trust in my own ability to provide.

Around this same time, we went through a long year of random appliance failures.  I remember telling a dear friend that I thought we were under attack.  It was almost comical the things that caught on fire each month.  Our stove broke, our HVAC caught on fire, our AC unit died, our vacuum started smoking, our year-old toaster caught on fire (without even having anything in it)  and our microwave began smoking and was immediately thrown outside into the snow to avoid another house fire.

Many things, like the toaster and microwave, just couldn’t be replaced because we couldn’t afford it, but we had to replace the oven parts and HVAC unit .  We tightened our budget, changed where we grocery shopped, got rid of cable, and ate from home more.  I learned how to go to Target without putting anything unnecessary into my cart.  I learned that life without cable or extra money for stuff we don’t need really is not that bad.  In fact, it is much simpler.

We learned to borrow things  (like a vacuum) rather than just buying new.  And we learned to depend even more on the Lord and seek wisdom on how to serve him with our finances, not serve ourselves.  As more appliances broke, our budget got tighter and we refused to go further in debt.  So we sold one of our two vehicles.  Looking back, I believe we were, in fact, under attack; we were also being sifted as wheat.  

Last year the Lord began stirring in our hearts not only the desire to pray for the unreached peoples of the world and the broken, but to go and bring the Gospel to them.  We began the process of becoming missionaries.  My husband Peter was deeply moved by Matthew 19 and the story of the rich man.  God was asking Peter to give everything away to follow him.

This summer, after miraculously selling our home, we had a yard sale of items we knew we would not take with us on the mission field.  We made maybe $200 at the yard sale, but at the last hour, as people were rummaging through stacks of old clothes and books, Peter went to each table and told them everything was free so take whatever you want.  Two ladies  left in tears with large bags of clothing, saying that no one is ever that generous.  Now, in the basement of our rental home, we have the walls lined with even more of our possessions ready to be given away to anyone who wants or needs them.

This sifting has not been easy, and could have ended with us bitter, further in debt, and even less dependent on the Lord.  I’ve had to learn to let go of what my day and my life should look like according to American standards or what others have and instead ask the Lord how he desires me to live.  I am not my own; I was bought with a price, the blood of Christ, and this life that he has given me is much more fulfilling and joyful and satisfying than I could ever imagine.

I wonder what Jesus prayed for us during our sifting?  I am sure it was for faith, for dependence on him.  We certainly did not have faith in all situations, and I remember many days of frustration as yet another thing broke.  But I also feel like much of my materialism and self-reliance sifted through the cracks, leaving me ready for this season of uncertainty yet with firm dependence on God to bring us and sustain us in Japan.

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