Life isn’t all flowers and sunshine and laughter; there are tornadoes and riptides and tears. That’s just the way it is because we live in a fallen world, and that’s the way it will be until Jesus comes back and sets everything right. Until then, though, we all come to face trials and hard times and seasons of life that knock us down and kick us around in the mud.
Today I want to talk a little about those times.
Some things need to be clear from the outset:
1. Trials will come; there is no getting around them. They are inevitable.
2. Trials come in all shapes and sizes–a lost friendship, death of a loved one, financial crisis, divorce, destroyed dreams, etc.. And then sometimes everything goes to pot at once and something’s falling apart on every side.
3. Trials are not necessarily punishment for sin. True, some trials are the natural consequences of sin, but some trials just come.
4. Trials are from God, and in light of His sovereignty, each heartbreak has a purpose.
The purpose of trials.
Simply and ineloquently put, trials suck. To be in the midst of a trial is to be in the midst of a storm; to be in pain physically, emotionally, or spiritually or all three at once; to suffer. It’s so easy to ask how it’s possibly good, to want to know what purpose it serves, to wonder why God would put you, your friends, your family through this.
The answer is (basically) this: trials test our faith and devotion and draw us into deeper intimacy and reliance on God. (Perhaps that’s an oversimplification, but it’s what I’ve got, kids).
Through trials, we are brought to the very end of our strength, and the end of our strength is where we usually begin to seek God for His.
Through trials, our love for God is tested–will we turn on God because of the pain, or will we fall into God because of the pain?
Through trials, we usually begin to seek answers to difficult questions about God and suffering, and in doing so, we can learn more of who God is.
Through trials, we are sanctified, made more like Christ.
Here’s the thing: the attitude we carry through the trial decides how we will make it out of the trial.
If we only ever view suffering as something we have to endure, something we have to survive, that’s all we’ll ever do. We’ll endure it, we might survive it, and we’ll definitely be scarred by it, but we won’t ever be more because of it. If anything, we’ll be made less by it. All the hurt will still be there, and after a little while, it will become bitterness and weariness because we made it through the fire by the skin of our teeth and nothing more.
But if we view our suffering with the mindset and belief that God is completely (and by completely, I mean completely) sovereign, and that everything (and by everything, I mean everything) He does has purpose, and that He is more (and by more, I mean far more) than enough for us, we will flourish.
When we are seeking God, when we are desperate for Him, when we cry out to Him, when we are broken and worn, when we trust Him and love Him and want Him, He is gracious to lavish His Spirit upon us. And when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with peace, which isn’t the absence of strife and pain but calm in the midst of it. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with joy, which isn’t only an emotion to be tossed about in our stormy hearts but also a choice we have to make.
God uses trials to 1) foster deep intimacy with us and 2) grow us.
And, yes, it’s hard to be excited about these things when we’re in the trial. It’s hard to be sobbing until your throat hurts and still think, “Oh, I can’t wait to see how God is growing me through this.” I get that because I’ve been there, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Sometimes we can get a glimpse of what God’s doing when we’re in the midst of suffering, but so often it takes time and hindsight and maybe even waiting until heaven to see where God worked.
The point is, God is working, and He’s working it all together for good. The thing is that our idea of good is often different from what’s actually good. We have to remember that God doesn’t think like we do, that He sees everything while all we see is the right now, and we can’t even see that with much clarity.
So please don’t go through your trial just trying to keep your head above water; trust God with that. Go through your trial with your eyes and heart open to the Holy Spirit and what He can accomplish in you.
P.S. – this post goes out to all my beloved ones who are in the tempest.