Sand paper. It is…well, brown and abrasive; not too appealing. I have used it on multiple occasions to complete home improvement projects. I’ve even become well-acquainted with the different types of “grit” they come in, depending on how coarse or fine I needed the sandpaper to be. Sandpaper was originally called “glass paper” because it actually contained small pieces of glass in it. I can’t imagine what that might have felt like on skin!
I do know a thing or two about how today’s sandpaper feels on skin due to trial and error while refinishing and painting furniture. I remember a time when I was trying to sand off the finish of a small side table with some coarse sand paper, and I ran it across the top of my hand accidentally. It left a big red mark that burned. It really hurt!
My sand paper experiences aren’t too different from how the realities of life can hurt us sometimes. We use sand paper to gradually smooth over a rough surface or to remove something that is deeper than the outer surface. God uses “sand paper seasons” in our lives to do the very same thing.
Sand paper seasons are extremely uncomfortable and often annoying. I am going through one right now, and the source often appears in different “grits”. If it is not my children, it’s my many mom-duties. If it’s not my mom-duties, its traffic that day, or its laundry or it’s a sucker stuck to my cozy blanket, or….it’s whatever. Sometimes it seems like the very floor I walk on feels more like sand paper than soft carpet.
Through tears of frustration and rather angry prayers, I have noticed that I am becoming more like sand paper myself. My poor husband is probably feeling raw from my coarsely abrasive greetings when he comes home from work. My kiddos look at me in astonishment with my harsh responses to their simple requests. I can only imagine the sinister smiles I probably give random customers in the grocery store aisle on days when I am especially “sandy”.
So, here it is. I have lived long enough to know that God always has purpose in the pain and function behind the frustration caused by these sand paper seasons. I am the problem. I need to allow this sandy season to smooth out my rough edges in my character and to deal with the imperfections that are surfacing in my frailty.
James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”I have known this verse for a long time, and I love what it says about trials producing perseverance. As I continue to read the first chapter of James, I think the fourth verse speaks more directly to sand paper seasons.
It says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
When we go through these tough seasons in life and most situations do not go as planned or just rub us the wrong way, we cannot retreat. We must stand firm in our faith and let these trials shape us to be more like Jesus. Sometimes, I simply don’t know if I have the mental or physical stamina to get everything accomplished that I need to as a Christ-follower, wife, mom, daughter, writer, teacher, and friend. Many times, I end up emotionally shutting down and retreating to something mindless like television or social media. In my wiser moments, I call out to the Lord and meditate on His Truth. He is my Sustainer. He is the only One who can help me allow perseverance to “finish its work”.
Through prayer and reflection, He shows me snapshots of how past sand paper seasons have harvested fruit in my life; fruit that can only grow through a sandy season. I see how surviving the ultra-awkward, three-year, sand paper season of middle school (which I hated) shaped me into a better sixth-grade teacher. Oh, how God has a sense of humor! I realize how walking through an extended period of postpartum depression softened my heart and opened my eyes to the many people who struggle with ongoing depression and anxiety. I am astounded at the amount of patience God has for me and my shortcomings as I deal with strong-willed children who challenge my authority and need to experience grace daily.
I see an overworked, overtired mom tuckered out on the couch with mounds of laundry that need to be washed, work to be finished, and most importantly, a husband and children who need her affection. I see the tears in her eyes and the look of failure on her face. I know that look because many days, I am that woman. Even on the most frustrating of days, I am reminded, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), including sand paper seasons.
If you are going through a rough patch right now, take heart in knowing that you are not alone. God is with you and is using this to “refinish” you to be more like Jesus and closer to His heart. It is my prayer for you and for me that we will persevere through our sand paper season and arise “mature and complete”.