The tires spun laboriously, spewing sand into the bone-dry desert air. The more I pressed down on the gas pedal, the more the car burrowed into the sand trap.
This embarrassing mistake occurred due to a debilitating lack of wisdom. Trying to find a gas station near the highway, I took a wrong turn and zigzagged through trees down a narrow path to the bottom of a hill, where a sandy straightaway stretched around the hill and back to the highway. But as soon as the car edged onto that final stretch, the tires dug in. The scalding sand greeted me and refused to say goodbye.
The rest of that day was wasted calling for roadside assistance multiple times, getting no answer, hiring a tow truck driver, trying and failing to help him when his truck also got stuck in the sand, walking back and forth searching for help under the blazing sun, and finally ditching the car and hitching a ride home at a bludgeoning blow to my wallet.
Here’s what I learned from getting stuck in the sand trap.
1. Ask God for wisdom every day.
Before this trial, wisdom was something I asked for regularly enough, but not every day, not for very long, and not with enough urgency.
The prime example of asking for wisdom is King Solomon. When God appeared to him in a dream and told him to ask for anything, he responded: “And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (1 Kings 3:7-9).
Throughout Solomon’s request are clear signs of humility. He told God he felt like an inexperienced child, puny in the midst of millions of Israelites. He was humble enough to admit that he didn’t know what he didn’t know. Solomon valued wisdom above silver, gold and rubies (Proverbs 3:13-15). As a result, God gave him more wisdom than any man before or since, plus all the riches he could have asked for instead! (1 Kings 3:10-13).
But what is wisdom? And how long does it really last if we don’t continue to seek it from God?
Here is how Herbert W. Armstrong defined it in a World Tomorrow radio program titled “Solomon’s Wisdom”: “Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge and make decisions in certain cases. But I don’t know whether Solomon had such great wisdom after all.”
As Mr. Armstrong often explained, wisdom encompasses and exceeds knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is information you can read in a textbook. Understanding is correctly discerning right from wrong based on the knowledge acquired. Wisdom is the application of knowledge and understanding—not just being informed and knowing what’s right, but possessing the strength of character to follow through with a righteous decision!
Solomon ended up losing much of his wisdom by making poor decisions despite knowing better. He accumulated 700 wives and 300 concubines, worshiped false gods to please these many women, and excessively indulged in every luxury and convenience imaginable. The entire book of Ecclesiastes tells us the hard lessons Solomon learned from relying on himself instead of being led by godly wisdom.
So even this king who was blessed by God with unsurpassable wisdom eventually lost much of that wisdom! Where does this leave us if we aren’t pleading to God every day for wisdom in our decision making?
God commands us to ask for wisdom: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). We all need more wisdom. But we have to ask for it.
Before plunging into the sand trap, I ignored all the obvious warning signs that a gas station was not located at the bottom of the hill. Not only did I lack wisdom, but I also lacked understanding of these signs to help me discern what a bad decision I was about to make.
2. Rejoice in trials.
“Trials cause us to dig deeper spiritually,” Gerald Flurry writes in The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope. Digging deeper spiritually means character development, which is hugely rewarding.
The day I spent in the sand trap was an exciting day because I kept thinking about all the improvements I could make to avoid a similar mistake in the future. Besides placing stronger emphasis on praying for wisdom, the biggest change I made from that day on was in the area of finances. To be better prepared in case of an emergency, I have saved more money than ever, meticulously tracked expenditures to ensure I’m never living beyond my means, eliminated about five monthly subscription service payments, and literally frozen my credit cards in a cup of ice in the freezer in the garage to remove all temptation to accrue debt. The result: peace of mind, financial freedom and joy!
Ultimately, the most lasting joy in trials comes from our vision of the future: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:12-16).
True Christians suffer like Jesus Christ, except less severely. Maybe we will get stuck in an occasional sand trap along the way, but the destination remains unchanged: inheriting God’s throne and entering God’s Family!