Responding to Life’s Trials
Two women I know are going through difficult times. One (we’ll call her Jen) lost her 32-year-old son to suicide, experienced the death of her beloved father-in-law and her husband of nearly 40 years, all within the past few months. Over the years she has known other hardships, including the loss of both parents and personal health issues.
The other woman (“Judy”) has also known grief. She waited many years before finding “the right man” to marry, but after fighting valiantly to make it work, her marriage ended. Single most of her life, she is a consummate career woman; battling for position, security and survival. She has endured a physical problem that causes her to feel self-conscious and she too lost both parents. Most recently, she faced the death of a cherished pet.
So much in common, but their responses are polar opposites. Jen is sort of in a grief haze. She is desperately sad and lonely and is struggling to get through each day, but she keeps moving forward. She has invested in the lives of family and friends throughout her life; and they are rallying by her side. While she doesn’t understand how all this loss could come to her, she doesn’t blame God or turn her back on Him because she’s been in a loving relationship with Him all her adult life. She knows Him and that He’s still with her. He will take her through this trial.
Psalm 63:7-8 says,
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
Jen has experienced this and relies on it as truth for this difficult trial.
Judy bounced back from her latest loss fairly fast; but doesn’t have the same vast array of friends and family around her as Jen. She is often alone and lonely. She is angry in general and specifically toward God; even questioning whether she still wants to call herself a Christian.
Jen is taking her time as she processes and experiences the pain, allowing it to come in measured doses each day, then doing her best to take grief breaks.
Judy plunged into the pain and immersed herself there for a week or so, then got back up and is working at closing the door on her hurting soul. She puts on a happy face and appears to be coping well.
We all have tragedy invade our lives; big and small, short-term and sustaining, just as Peter says,
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
Our response to those awful times can define us and shape our future. If we don’t properly deal and heal from a deep gash in our spirit, all our actions and relationships are impacted. We are less able to be honest and committed if we hold back and protect ourselves.
When crisis and pain hit, we need to walk through the fire instead of looking for a way out or around it, denying it or disguising it (alcohol, anger, etc). God’s promises can sustain us, like the one in 1 Peter 5:10,
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
My grace is sufficient for you.
If none of God’s saints were poor and tried, we should not know half so well the consolations of divine grace. When we find the wanderer who has nowhere to lay his head who still can say, “I will trust in the Lord,” or when we see the pauper starving on bread and water who still glories in Jesus, when we see the bereaved widow overwhelmed in affliction and yet having faith in Christ–oh, what honor it reflects on the Gospel.
God’s grace is illustrated and magnified in the poverty and trials of believers. Saints bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good, and that out of apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring–that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep them in it. This patience of the saints proves the power of divine grace.
There is a lighthouse out at sea: It is a calm night–I cannot tell whether the edifice is firm. The tempest must rage about it, and then I shall know whether it will stand. So with the Spirit’s work: If it were not on many occasions surrounded with tempestuous waters, we would not know that it was true and strong; if the winds did not blow upon it, we would not know how firm and secure it was. The masterworks of God are those men who stand in the midst of difficulties steadfast, unmovable– Calm mid the bewildering cry, Confident of victory. The one who would glorify his God must be prepared to meet with many trials. No one can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts are many.
If, then, yours is a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will be better able to display the all-sufficient grace of God. As for His failing you, never dream of it–hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now should be trusted to the end.
God Works Through Trials (James 1:1-13)
As I have reflected over the events of the past few days and months I was drawn to the first chapter of James. In the first 13 verses we are given some understanding of the purpose of trials that come our way.
- The good that has come from trials.
- The comfort we can have in trials.
So this passage speaks to us to help us in our time of trial when we need understanding and comfort. And yet in a real way I have also thought that the life of our friend and loved one actually was a living example of this passage:
- As she and her family demonstrated before us the reality of this portion of God’s Word.
- I shall never be able to read these verses without thinking of (Name) and how her life reflected this passage.
So for a few minutes, think with me as we look into God’s Word. (Read verses 2-4) The Lord would first of all have us know that there is. . .
Purpose in Trials
1. When difficult times come into our lives and we find ourselves unable to comprehend/to understand; the enemy is quick to throw doubts/questions into our minds.
2. We find ourselves questioning God’s goodness/God’s wisdom in allowing these things to happen.
3. We may even be bitter and angry with God for allowing this to happen to us and wonder if He really understands.
4. But God’s word confidently reminds us that God does understand . . .
- Things do not just happen haphazardly to the Christian.
- With no meaning/no purpose.
5. God is in control and as Paul reminds us no one or nothing can separate us from God’s love. Rom. 8–even the most difficult of circumstances.
6. James reminds us that God wants us to trust Him in the trials of life.
- For as we trust Him in the trials God can use the difficult trial to mold us:
- To mature us.
- So that we will be more like Jesus Christ our Savior.
7. Isaiah the prophet said in trying to comprehend God’s ways: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9)
8. God would have us trust Him in the difficult trials:
- For even though we cannot understand He loves us and He is in control.
- He will use this trial to help us grow spiritually and to help us mature and become more like Jesus Christ.
9. Trust Him! Keep your eyes on Him! And God will use even this trial for His glory.
10. But James goes on to tell us that not only does God have purpose in trials–but also that God gives wisdom in trials.
Wisdom in Trials
(Read verses 5 and 6)
1. James recognizes that we may not always be able to see the purpose in trials or see the good that can come from trials.
2. When we find ourselves unable to see the good and the purpose in trials we are to:
- Keep on asking Him for wisdom.
- In faith.
- And our God who loves to give will respond so that we can see the good and the purpose in trials.
3. Then James illustrates and says:
- That even a poor man has much good in his trial of poverty if he knows God–the owner of the universe.
- And a rich man through he lose everything can rejoice in the good of having learned not to place his faith in riches which quickly pass away.
4. God has been very good to us in allowing us to see the good even in this difficult trial.
- For so much good has already come from this trial:
- As a church family we are growing spiritually and united together.
- As individuals we have seen faith in action and we have learned lessons we shall never forget.
- As we have seen at least three people come to Jesus Christ through faith. (As NAME shared her vital faith with Jesus Christ with others)
5. Yet in the days to come we will continue to need wisdom to see the purpose and the good in this trial.
- James exhorts us to keep on asking God in faith for wisdom.
- And our generous loving God will give us the wisdom needed.
(But finally James reminds us that not only does God have a purpose in trials; and gives wisdom in trials but thirdly there is comfort in trials.)
Comfort in Trials
(Read verse 12)
1. James here reminds us that this life is not all there is to life.
- That right will be commended.
- That due reward will be give for faithfulness.
2. We often live as if we are the living on the way to the dying.
3. But God’s word makes it very clear that we are the dying on the way to the living.
4. What is in store then for one who knows Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and passes from this life?
- Phil. l tells us that when a Christian departs he is with Christ.
- II Cor. 5 tells that when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord
- And I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 tells us that someday that body which for the present sleeps in the grave will be resurrected and united with our soul/spirit and in this glorified state we will be with the Lord forever.
- And there rewards will be given for endurance through trials and for faithfulness to God in difficult times.
5. So today we sorrow – but we sorrow not as others who have no hope.
- We have the assurance of the word of God that (name) is with Christ.
- (Name) had trusted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior from sin.
6. But I cannot help but think that perhaps some of you are not prepared to face death and you are not prepared to meet Jesus Christ face to face. Nor are you ready to face a trial like (Name) has faced with peace in your heart.
- The strength that enabled this dear one to face her trial with confidence and assurance was not her own.
- It came as she allowed the life of her Savior to live His life through her. It came from a confidence that she was ready to meet her Savior.
- She had made her peace with God through faith in Christ and desired above all else to glorify Him with her life.
7. I invite you right where you are sitting to invite Christ into your life as your Savior from sin.
- Jesus Christ died as your substitute paying the penalty for your sin.
- But He asks you ;by an act of your will to trust Him as your personal Savior from sin.
- If you do this, on the authority of God’s word you are a new creature/born again and prepared to meet your Savior.