“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I have shared this verse countless times with individuals and groups whenever the topic of trials and hardships come up. Let’s face it, that topic always comes up. Every single one of us deals with trials. Life is hard, circumstances get difficult, and people will be people. I decided a couple weeks ago that I was going to layout my blog topics ahead of time. This way I can sit down to write with a little bit of direction, or at the very least a starting point. I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that I’m writing about trials today. Our family is still going through it. I keep praying for relief and God keeps blessing me with peace of heart and one more trial. As I sit down to write this week’s blog, I’m on the upswing from my most recent trial of a concussion and minor spinal injury from a hard fall I took last week.
As I poured over the scriptures this week, I keep coming back to thoughts about how we handle our trials. Our natural response to trials is often directly related to the type of trial that it is. I tend to respond more positively to a huge, life-altering trial while I get very discouraged by a long string of “moderate” trials. Others can handle the day to day inconveniences but tend to tailspin when something big happens. The Bible addresses all the different types of trials and gives us clear direction on how to handle them. Below, I’ve laid out three types of trials, the dangers or threats that each pose in our life, and the proper response that every Christian should have.
- Trials from without. These are the types of trials that come into our life that are usually outside of our own control. They might be sent by God to test us and build our character. Maybe they are put on us by Satan as he tries his best to keep us paralyzed in our walk with God. It might be a sudden physical illness or injury. An act of abuse committed against us. It could be a loss of a loved one, sudden loss of a job, or a hurt experienced from someone you thought would never hurt you. Job experienced these kinds of trials. If you study the book of Job you will learn that these trials were given to him by Satan in his attempt to turn faithful Job away from God. Satan is skilled in distracting us from God and he will stop at nothing to take a faithful Christian down.
Dangers: There are many dangers that you must be aware of when going through a trial, but the biggest threat comes when you allow the struggle to take you away from your relationship with God. Most Christians going through a tough time tend to use the trial as their excuse for not spending time with the Lord. We see this in churches all the time. Nothing will destroy a church faster then the negative outpour that comes when many people are discouraged by trials and gave up their quality time with the Lord. When we take our eyes off God and focus in on all the things that are “going wrong”, we become discouraged, we complain about everything, and we become a tool in Satan’s hand instead of fulfilling our call to be a faithful witness for the Lord.
Response: Give praise to the Lord. Job recognized that he came into this world with nothing, he’s going out of this world with nothing, and so even his very breath is enough to be thankful to God for. I love what Habakkuk 3:17-19 says. “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fall and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on high places.” I also think it’s cool that he wrote these words “for the choir director, on my stringed instruments.” It doesn’t matter how dire our circumstances seem, we can always find something to be thankful for and sing out praises to our God. If you ever drive by me on the highway and see me belting out a song with tears running down my face, don’t worry, I’m just going through a trial and turning it to praise to me God.
2. Trials from within. These are the trials that come on us as a direct result of our sin or just plain poor choices. Leaving a job without having another one lined up will surely cause some financial trials. That in turn might cause stress in your marriage. Cheating on your husband will not end well. There will certainly be struggles that come along with that. Getting caught up in a web of lies that surround your life with drama will cause trials to pour into your life. 1 Peter 3:17 says “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for what is wrong.”
Dangers: So often we go through consequences of our own making with the attitude of being strong to get through this “trial”. Our biggest threat in these types of trials is becoming hard headed and hard hearted. We will make every excuse and justification we can to make ourselves look good and never get to the root of the issue. No one likes to admit they made a mistake and coming face to face with the sin in our hearts is not supposed to be a fun day in the park. When we allow our heart to harden and refuse to change course, we become a hinderance to the work of the Lord instead of an asset.
Response: There is only one response to the trials that come from within. Repent. Confess your sins and seek restoration where it’s needed. Look at how your consequences have poured out onto others around you. Recognize the stress that it put on your family, your co-workers, and your church family. Own it and then turn from it! God will forgive you and give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
3. Trials from persecution. These are the trials that come on us simply because of what we believe. You don’t have to look far in the news to see that Christians are being persecuted every day just because they believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus warned us about this type of trial repeatedly throughout scripture. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 3:4 that “we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction.” The Christian should never be surprised when trials come up. You might not ever find yourself in a situation where you must choose between allegiance to Christ or your own life, but if you are living in obedience to the Word of God then you can be sure you will have struggles at some point. It might be something as simple as being laughed at and called a “holy roller”, or it might be that you are shunned by your entire family because of your decision to follow Jesus. I firmly believe that the more faithful you are in sharing the gospel, the harder Satan will attack with various trials. The bottom line is if you want to be a faithful servant of the Lord, expect there to be trouble.
Dangers: The biggest danger here is the desire to retreat to the safety of unfaithfulness and disobedience. It makes me so sad when I hear someone say they’d rather stay in their sin because it’s easier there. When we move from our sin into holy obedience to God we will always experience trials. Scripture promises that. But we will also experience a joy and peace that is indescribable.
Response: Obedience. Jesus was obedient to God, even to the point of dying on a cross. We must obey God no matter the cost. Instead of shrinking back into the shadows of sin, we must pick up the armor of God, grab our Bibles, and arm ourselves with a faithful prayer life so we can walk into the battle and let God fight for us.
What trials are you experiencing right now? Which category do they fit in? What will your response be? I pray that you will have the courage to step out in faith and be obedient to the Father. I don’t pray only that the trial be removed, but that God would change you and build up your character as you submit to Him and accept whatever challenge He has brought into your life to face. When Paul was facing extreme circumstances that bogged him down to the point of thinking he would die, he recognizes the reason for the trial. He says in 2 Corinthians 1:9b that the trials were “so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;” Every trial has the same end goal: to draw ever closer to the One who made you, and the One who saved you!