Trials tap into the stockpile of every filthy word you’ve ever heard. They invite you to indulge your favorite acceptable vice for comfort or escape. They drive up stock in Kleenex. They make it really hard to find a reason to get out of bed or take a shower. Trials are a relentless hurt.
And strangely enough, a Christian going through trials may at times find very little encouragement by church services, reading the Bible or even prayer. They appear to be on the verge of insanity, rifled with poor judgment, weak in their faith.
Fortunately, we’re not working on a pass/fail premise here. But if we were, this is one time in which it’s more beneficial to fail!!! It’s in the failing that you recognize what’s lacking, what God is seeking to cultivate within you. Trials give you a look in the mirror and a chance for an extreme soul makeover. It’s encountering His strength in your weakest, most vulnerable state.
The insurmountable “Why, God?” will always beg for answers. And sometimes there’s just no good reason to be found. Incredibly painful and unjust things happen in life. But searching for meaning within the trial is different than searching for its reason.
James refers to “trials of various kinds” because lots of things put your faith on trial besides persecution - things that test you and threaten to bring out your worst.
- grief – divorcing the person you made vows with, mourning a tragic death.
- financial straits – seemingly inescapable debt, losses due to economic recession.
- health concerns – facing cancer, tackling autism, making peace with Alzheimer’s.
- loneliness – being orphaned, aging alone, single people searching for community.
- homosexuality – confronting attractions to the same gender presents a major crisis of faith for so many brothers and sisters in Christ.
- depression – the uncontrollable sadness and loss of interest in livelihood, loss of vitality.
But don’t be too quick to dismiss your situation if it’s not on someone’s list, as if it weren’t difficult enough to be considered a trial. Granted, a trial is more than just a bad day, but never underestimate a gnawing chronic state of dissatisfaction at work, a loveless marriage or the stagnation of a passionless existence. Some trials damage by lingering until they penetrate and mar the soul.
And though it may feel like punishment or judgment, God takes no delight in your wounded spirit or seeing your hurt. God isn’t up there poking you with a really long stick.
Instead, God offers to redeem any season of adversity by developing something that’s not yet present in you. It can help you grow up in the faith and shed your childish skin that craves selfishness, impatience, laziness…
To “get there”, it takes living in the spiritual realities of life, being aware of unseen truths. And the truth is, God’s crying with you. With furrowed brow, tender eyes and outstretched arms, His embrace waits for you.
The really hard thing in all this is the perseverance that’s required. Trials don’t have expiration dates, so we never know if we’re days or decades away from freedom. Even when the need continues for a long time, we retain the practices of trusting and never giving up, praying even when it feels futile, banking on the promises of God, remembering his goodness and mercy. Nietzsche calls it a “long obedience in the same direction.”
Perseverance is more than a mere gritting your teeth and bearing it. It develops a disciplined lifestyle and inches us closer to maturity.
So, if it boils down to a tremendous opportunity to grow closer to Jesus and become more transformed into his image, you have to ultimately decide if that’s worth it to you. Because it’s some HARD STUFF. Difficult moral dilemmas.
Is God worth it?
If you conclude that He is, discern His truth for your path and cling to it for dear life, because it’ll be challenged over and over and over again.
But if you conclude that He’s not, that God doesn’t care about your suffering… God won’t hold your grievances with Him against you. He just loves you. After you commiserate with David’s rants in Psalms, God loves you still!!! And you’ll never be separated from that love.
Keep on keeping on,
AIM 1991, Portugal