When we are in the midst of a trial, it is comforting to remember that God is doing far more in our lives than we can see. Let’s look at a few ways God works through trials.
1. He Draws Us back to Himself
We all have times when our love for the Lord cools and our zeal for Him wanes. Psalm 119:67 says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” Trials have a way of turning our hearts toward the Lord as we cry out to Him in simple dependence.
2. He Prepares Us for Spiritual Growth
Like the April showers that bring May flowers, stormy situations in our lives prepare us for spiritual growth. As much as we’d like to skip the storms and still have the roses, it just isn’t possible.
I once read of a place in Northern Chile where it almost never rains. Author Franklin Elmer, Jr. described, “Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east; each noon it shines brightly down from overhead; evening brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen raging high in the mountains, as heavy fog banks are observed far out over the sea, the sun continues to shine on this favored and protected strip of land. One would imagine this area to be an earthly paradise; but it is not. Instead, it is a sterile and desolate desert! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there.”
I actually have first-hand experience in seeing the effects of drought, as we live in the Mojave Desert. We do get a little rain, but not enough to sustain growth under the hot sun. By early summer, everything that is not watered or irrigated is brown and dying.
Just as the soil needs rain to support growth, so we need storms in our lives to help us grow in the Lord. Without question, the greatest times of growth in my life have been during trials.
3. He Purifies Us
Proverbs 25:4 speaks of the refining process of silver: “Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.” Even so, the Lord uses the difficult times in our lives to purify our hearts. Malachi 3:3 gives us a glimpse of the Lord carefully monitoring the furnace during the trials: “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
In the furnace of trials, selfish motives and hidden agendas surface in our lives. The strain of the trial has a way of bringing out all that is self-centered and self-seeking. Although this process is humbling, it is truly a blessing in disguise, for it allows us to see ourselves as we really are. We can then seek God’s forgiveness and help.
Some trials we encounter are actually caused by the Lord’s chastening hand of correction in our lives. But even this is evidence of God’s love for us. Hebrews 12:10–11 explains that God chastens us, “For our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
4. He Gives Us the Opportunity to Comfort Others
Have you ever been going through a trial and wished for a listening ear of someone who could understand what you were going through? When we go through trials, God gives us the opportunity to become that someone for others. As we receive God’s comfort, we are made better comforters.
In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul reminded the Corinthian church that the difficulties they were enduring and the comfort from God they were receiving would enhance their ministry as comforters. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
5. He Lets Us Point Others to Him
The classic “furnace story” in the Bible is that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel 3 tells the story of these three Hebrew young men who were put in a literal fiery furnace because they refused to worship a false Babylonian idol. God miraculously protected them in the fire with His very presence, and, as a result, the pagan king who had ordered their execution was pointed to God. He even made a decree, “That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3:29).
Only God can take something difficult and use it to accomplish such good in our lives and, through us, in the lives of others!
Choosing God’s Strength
What God desires to do in our lives through trials doesn’t “just happen.” It requires a choice on our part to receive His strength. Without God strengthening our faith through the trials, we will melt in self-pity and emerge from the furnace with our emotions charred by bitterness.
Paul ministered for years with a “thorn in the flesh,” which was likely a physical infirmity. After he asked the Lord three times to remove it, the Lord told him that the thorn provided a special opportunity for Paul to know God’s strength: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul then had a choice. He could spend his energy wishing for a healing that God had decided not to give, or he could embrace what God allowed and rejoice in the strength God provided. He chose strength: “…Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).