“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4
The surgeon’s scalpel cut into my back one week ago today. Of course, intended to heal a problem, it results first in a whole lot of pain. But our bodies are remarkably restorative and wounds become scars which do not hurt. Today the wound still hurts, but give it a few more weeks and the pain will likely be gone.
This trial was planned, but many trials and testing of our soul come unexpectedly. They are not only painful to endure, whether physical pain or spiritual, and often both, but they come as a shock bringing disruption to our normal life. Changes must be put in place to deal with the trial we endure, and from which we hope to recover. Some, unfortunately, do not always result in physical healing.
The Bible holds nothing back in declaring the prospect of trials in our life. They are the way of life for everyone of us. All will undergo trials and testings of all kinds. Their declared purpose is to make us stronger: in faith, in character, in purpose of living, that we might be become men and women of God, intimately bound to our Savior, Jesus Christ, in greater and greater dependency.
Some, however, respond to trials in bitterness and increasing isolation. Instead of the soul being turned to thanksgiving and a yearning desire to help others, it turns selfishly inward to marinate in depression and self-pity for the “cards they have been dealt.” These feel they have gotten the worst of the deal and there are few others who got it as bad as they. Even if they are shown that others have been tested more severely than they have been, they care not. Others’ worse condition is unfortunately not their concern.
Joni Eareckson Tada is a great lesson for us all. Diving into shallow water as a beautiful, vivacious teenager, she broke her neck, becoming a quadriplegic for the rest of her life. The greatest trial of all produced the incredible character of a lifetime of service to others. Countless other lives were saved through her indefatigable witness to God’s grace! And, by the way, God, who could, never healed her body.
Sometimes our trials produce temporary symptoms, other times something that remains. Whatever the case they are intended by God for a providential purpose in your life, a purpose just for you because God knows what you can do with it, if you will. He knows the path of your life, the people with whom you will rub shoulders, even some to whom you will be newly introduced. These are opportunities for your life and witness to make a positive difference. Look at your trials no matter how great or small as opportunities to bless others through the building up of your character.
All your trials and testing are purposeful. They are not accidents in the sense they are purely random and without divine purpose. You can only deal purposefully and positively with them if you have God’s perspective and viewpoint. His Word is abundantly clear; they come from His hand, and they come with a loving purpose. “No pain, no gain” is true in this biblical understanding. Pain must be endured through faith, and depending on God for renewed strength, even supernatural strength. Your experiencing of suffering and overcoming gives you a platform to witness to others if indeed you have called on God and He has answered you. Do not let your trials and testing go to waste.
“Only be still, and wait his leisure in cheerful hope, with heart content to take what-e’er thy Father’s pleasure and all discerning love hath sent; nor doubt our inmost wants are known to him who chose us for his own.”
(3rd verse of Georg Neumark’s hymn, “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee,” 1641)