Trial, tribulation, pressure, anguish, burden, trouble, test. What are the purposes of these in our lives? We all go through various kinds of trials in our lives with varying levels of difficulty. We all ask similar questions when going through these trials: why, how long, what’s the cost, what did I do wrong, what lesson am I supposed to learn, etc.
When I went to nursing school, I had various tests to study for throughout the years, but then in order to become a registered nurse, I had to take a State Board exam. While studying for this test, one of the things the review class taught me was how to take the test. Not only was there information to learn, review, and study; but it was also important to understand how to take the test. Understanding how to take the test is just as important as knowing the information.
When we encounter various trials in our lives, we must understand “how to take the test.” When Job completed his test, “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10). Job endured his test for the simple fact that God wanted to prove to Satan that Job was faithful to Him. God has also used this man’s life as an encouragement to many. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). II Corinthians 1:4 also shows us that the purpose of Job’s suffering was “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” How many people have looked to Job in the midst of his suffering and been encouraged to press on and not give up hope?
James 1 and Romans 5 both tell us that our attitude toward the trial is to be one of joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” (James 1:2). “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…” (Romans 5:3). Joy is not a passing feeling that comes and goes. Joy is an attitude, a perspective, a conscious decision. In the midst of a trial, the last thing we feel like doing is making a decision to be joyful. As I was riding with our daughter, Denise, to Children’s Hospital in the ambulance knowing she had a mass in her brain, the last thing I felt was joy. Rather, I felt anguish. All I knew to do was to cry out to God, and be as reassuring and comforting to her as I could. My choice was not anger, but rather total and complete dependence on Him for what was to come. I made a conscious choice.
According to James and Paul in Romans the purpose of these trials is also to produce patience in our lives. How difficult this is because we are finite creatures. God who is eternal is not bound by time. His patience is limitless, but ours is very shortsighted. During a trial, we just want it to be done. Yet in the midst of these trials, God “knows that suffering produces endurance (patience), and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:4).
All of the nursing exams I took, were for one purpose: to become a Registered Nurse. God has a purpose in each and every trial we endure, each and every challenging circumstance we face, and each and every dilemma we encounter. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).
We will never truly understand God’s purposes. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?…For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:34-36).
The trials we endure will produce something in our lives. What it produces is up to us. Will face each trial with a decision to learn and be fully dependent on God, or will we face the trials with bitterness and anger. I have had various trials in my life, and I have faced them both ways. When we are bitter, there can be no joy. When there is joy, it chases away the bitterness. Satan makes us think that by holding onto the pain and the injustice of the situation we will feel better. That is a lie. Holding onto the pain, takes away the joy we may have in other areas of our lives.
I have two friends who are currently battling cancer. My sister has endured much with her children. The list could go on. We have all been through trials, and it seems the trials we have endured have been enough, but God’s plans are not ours. When I pray for those that are enduring these difficult trials and ponder these thoughts that I have written, I come back to how little I understand and how great God is. The tapestry of our lives is woven by an infinite God who has the pattern for the finished product. We only see a small portion. So we must “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7).