Trials

imageTREASURES IN TRIALS
by Dagan Sharpe

Clearly, we have a choice when faced with difficulty. We can either give in to feelings of worry, doubt and fear, or we can choose to believe we serve an all powerful God, who uses everything for His glory and our good when we love Him and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Admittedly, even though the choice seems obvious, in reality, experiencing peace during trials proves difficult for most of us.

For example, I understand God measures how much I can handle and grants me the strength to endure all days (Deuteronomy 33:25), but there are times I catch myself surprised by and even doubting the very joy and peace He gives me in the midst of my struggles. It’s as if my mind screams to remind me I shouldn’t be this way. It seems to insinuate my peace is a sign that I’m being naive, or unrealistic, because the “normal” thing to do is to worry and fret. In fact, friends and family may even question our peace as a sign of indifference, or complacency, which serves to only aggravate our sense of doubt.

However, we know this is not what the Word of God says. In fact, Jesus talks about these doubts when He highlights how some will allow their worries, ambitions and passions to choke out their faith (Luke 8:14), which is why we are directly instructed not to worry about anything, ever, but to pray about everything and be thankful in all circumstances (Philippians 4:6).

Clearly, as Christians, our desire is not to doubt God, or His promises, but there are times when trusting Him seems to go against every reasonable impulse we have. Thankfully, we don’t have to be victims to our minds, or emotions even though we aren’t necessarily grateful for our hardships. We can still possess an “attitude of gratitude” while in them (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

God is always in control, and although He may not directly cause the seemingly random and negative events that happen to us, there is nothing that occurs outside His awareness and permission, as clearly seen in the life of Job (Job 1:12). As we know, Job lost his children, his health, his money and his position. His wife even questioned his faithfulness to God, his friends questioned his integrity and Job questioned why God allowed these horrible things to happen to him. Yet in the end, Job’s uncompromising faith and trust in God was rewarded. This is why we can respond as Jesus did to our loving Father who will use every event in our life for positive and productive purposes as we trust and surrender our will to Him (Luke 22:42).

This powerful insight changes our perspective from a worldly and selfish view to a biblical view, which empowers us to realize that every trial comes with it’s own set of gifts serving to strengthen our walk with Christ who desires to bear our burdens (Psalm 68:19). Five examples of the treasures we can discover and develop during our times of trial can be highlighted in the acrostic, B.L.E.S.S.

Belief. What we know about God isn’t necessarily always what we believe. For example, we know God is in control of all things, but do we trust Him when times are hard to meet our needs? He says He will, and trials serve as opportunities for Him to keep His promise, prove His Word and build our faith. In fact, I can’t recall a time in the Bible, or in my own life, when God has not been faithful to His Word. In fact, every struggle proves to be a tool used to get us where He desires us to be spiritually, physically and even locationally for His glory. As a result, His plan for us is promoted and our ability to trust and believe Him no matter our circumstances is empowered. Thus, we have more joy and less worry knowing He is in control and has a valuable purpose for all we encounter (Jeremiah 29:11).

Love. When in pain, we tend to be more open to receiving God’s love, or at least we tend to be more sensitive and aware of it. For instance, it was because of struggle I even began seeking God in a deeper way, and like Paul, I discovered God’s grace is enough to sustain and propel me forward in faith no matter the pain(s) in my life (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we allow and commit ourselves to be intimate with God, we find His love for us is without compromise. It doesn’t come with strings, it’s never selfish and it’s unconditional. By experiencing this type of sacrificial love we learn what true love is and what it isn’t. As a result, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love others the same way – sacrificially and selflessly (John 13:34).

Encouragement. There has never been a challenge faced where God did not offer some type of encouragement along the way. We find it in His Word, through fellowship with other believers, through His Spirit and in our prayers. God is our biggest fan, and as we seek Him we are comforted which in turn empowers us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4). We become vessels and distributors of the blessings we receive to benefit others during their times of need. Our trials also remove blind spots we may have towards the various needs around us. They give us insight we once lacked, and we are empowered to sympathize where we once couldn’t. For example, losing my job helped me better relate to and comfort others struggling with unemployment. Whatever our loss is, it is always balanced with new gain to help us bless and encourage others even more, which serves to spread our reason for hope and the gospel.

Supply. God promises to provide for our every need and during trails we realize His commitment to care for us is rock solid (Philippians 4:19). As a result, our dependence upon Him increases and our trust and reliance on Him strengthens, which causes our worries and fears to diminish. There has never been a time God broke a promise, and when we surrender our lives to Him, He assumes full responsibility in meeting our needs. Again, when I lost my job, my family experienced God’s provision in powerful ways as He faithfully directed us to where He desired us to be. God’s provision is a powerful truth for any of God’s children to experience and it opens our eyes to begin viewing our trials as opportunities to trust God’s plan for our life, walk in faith and rejoice in the purposeful service He has and is preparing for us (Proverbs 3:5).

Strongholds Revealed. One of the most powerful benefits of trials is that they serve to reveal the strongholds and sins in our life (Isaiah 48:10). We most likely are already aware of a few, but others may be hidden and struggles help reveal them. For me, the subtle pitfalls of ambition, pride and desire for approval were brought to light. Although these traits tend to be applauded in the world’s arena, they are dangerous stumbling blocks to the servant of Christ. Other strongholds may include impatience, insecurity, regret, envy and unforgiveness, just to name a few. However, our loving Father will use trails as a means to uncover these limitations lurking deep within our hearts. We are then presented with the opportunity to repent and abandon them – and what a reward when we do! For our walk with Christ deepens and our testimony strengthens for His glory. We may not like the fire of trials, but they serve a valuable purpose in refining us, refreshing our spirits and reinvigorating our impact for Christ (Job 23:10).

In closing, we can rejoice knowing that our trials are temporary and filled with treasures that serve to strengthen our faith, build His church, bless others and propel our testimonies (Isaiah 45:3). Therefore, we don’t have to allow trials to be tiresome. Instead, we get to seize the opportunity to squeeze every benefit we can from them! Trials will change us, but the question is will we allow them to make us bitter, or allow God to use them to make us better?

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