Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2 (ESV)
Trials, nobody wants them. Nobody seeks them out. But everybody has to deal with them. This week a friend shared she is fighting stage four breast cancer and has a very rare aggressive form of the disease. Her husband has lived through four brain tumor surgeries. These were all surgeries where he should not have survived, but through God’s grace, he did. His story helped me walk through Darryl’s struggles after his stroke. My heart hurt for them as they are facing this new twist to their story. I want to say, stop, this family has been through enough. Another friend, Jim, has multiple myeloma. He is scheduled to undergo a stem cell transplant procedure next week. Their daughter went through cancer treatment the year before. Isn’t that enough?
These three people have or are facing trials. But, it is not just about them. Their families and friends are also meeting these trials. What is our response when others go through trials? There were some people who backed off from Darryl and I when we went through his stroke event. They out and out told me this is too hard. I can’t see him that way. What they were trying to tell me was I don’t understand why God would allow him to go through this. Their understanding of God and His ways was being challenged by this trial. I get it. Many times, it is our faith also gets tested when others go through their trials. Do we take the time to really pray through our own doubts, fears and concerns? Or do we back off, put our head in the sand and emotionally distance ourselves from them? If so, it reveals our faith and trust are small. Or do we work through our own fears and become encouragers to help them endure the trial? I admit it; I have done both.
That is humbling, isn’t it? Tests reveal to ourselves and God just how truly we have learned to apply our faith to real life. If we need to grow some more, new opportunities will arise. When we really understand there is a purpose in each trial, it makes it easier to endure.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. I Peter 1:6-7 (NLT) Wow, James exhorts us to count it all joy when we meet temptations, and here is Peter telling us to be truly glad! We can be glad because it gives Him an opportunity to show us off to the world.
Every trial we face is to help purify us to be more like Jesus. They are usually difficult and painful by their very nature. They, in themselves, are not enjoyable. Peter goes on to say: Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 1 Peter 4:12-13 So now we not only have “many” trials, but he has added the descriptive word “fiery”! God uses the trials that we must endure to help purify us. To reveal and deal with the dross in our hearts. Have you ever met people who have that inner glow of the Holy Spirit? Then you hear their story and you are amazed at it? You would never know all they endured, because they allowed the trials of their faith to do the purification work.
We can embrace the trials that come our way, or we can allow them to make us bitter. We can become angry with God and back away from trusting Him. Hebrews 12 reminds us of how Jesus endured His trials. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Brothers and sisters, you are not the only ones who are enduring trials right now. They seem large and in charge, but God is with you. Allow Him to bring His beauty into your life as you go through the trials of life. He understands it is not easy. He understands it is perplexing. He understands how hard it is for you. But He also knows what He is doing in it and through it. Peter goes on in chapter 5 with his final encouragement. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
My friends, we need to stop being surprised at the trials of life that come our way. They are part of life, but so is the joy, gladness, and victory that can come through them. Let’s keep trusting. Please pray for my friends, as I pray for yours.
Father, I thank you for strengthening all those today who are going through difficult trials. I ask that You help all of us learn to count it all joy and receive them with gladness. I ask that You get every good thing out of every trial we face. Help us to respond to our trials with the expectation that we will become more like You and know that it is worth it. I thank you for restoring, confirming and strengthening each person who has endured difficult trials, for that is Your promise. In Jesus’ Name, amen.