Trials & testing

James 1v2 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” How can we actually have this perspective? Notice that James begins: “Consider”. He tells us not so much how to feel as how to think. He is not saying: Pretend this is fun. He is telling us: Remember what God is doing in this. God will use trials to make us rounder Christians – to grow us into the very people we were created and saved to be. So trials are the spiritual equivalent of growbags – faith grows by learning to persevere in hardship (see Romans 5:3-4). Difficulties are opportunities to cling on to the promises of God more tightly. So we are not to be joyful about suffering; but we are to be joyful in suffering, because we know what God can and does do for us through suffering.

Sam Allberry

Explore Bible notes, 1/10/2015

God could have let Abraham stay in the comfort of Ur, Moses stay in the comfort of Pharaoh’s court, and Aaron stay in the safety of the crowd. He could have kept David away from Goliath; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of the fiery furnace; Daniel out of the lion’s den; Elijah away from Jezebel; Nehemiah out of captivity; Jonah out of the whale; John the Baptist away from Herod; Esther from being threatened; Jeremiah from being rejected; and Paul from being shipwrecked. But he didn’t. In fact, God used each of these trials to bring people closer to himself, to produce perseverance, character and hope.

Source: John Ortberg, The Me I Want To Be, 2010, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p.236

One reason the Lord permits us to go through trials, is so we might not get too content or comfortable in our faith and stop growing.

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) ancient Chinese philosopher and teacher

Life can be tough sometimes and we are often afflicted by the PLOM syndrome – poor little old me! We feel like God has abandoned us; our prayers go unanswered; we are left wandering around in no-mans-land, in the desert, and we think God has forgotten us. But God has not forgotten: God sees, God hears, God knows. God has not forgotten you. Your trials and troubles serve to refine your faith and trust in Him; they develop character, strength and perseverance. God says: “I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you” (Isaiah 44v21)… “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? [Maybe] Though she may forget, I will not forget you, says the Lord (Isaiah 49v15).” ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ (Hebrew 13v5). – God is working behind the scenes. Trust in his promises. He will provide for you. He will protect you. He will give you peace and rest in Him.

The landscape along Florida’s Everglades is dotted with wiry primitive looking trees known as Caribbean Pines. They thrive in a rugged environment, can withstand prolonged periods of drought and fire, and hold their own against the fiercest hurricanes. In fact, if you plant them in a cultivated setting they usually shrivel and die. Joni Eareckson Tada says, ‘Like Caribbean Pines, our souls usually don’t thrive during good times. Our hearts grow complacent, our need of God becomes less urgent, our hope of heaven dims, and our prayer life dries up… in a beautiful setting with our needs met and every resource at our fingertips… our soul shrivels… We need an occasional blast of storm or fierce trial if our faith is to mature.’

Source: The UCB Word For Today , 24/2/2014

God loves us just the way we are – even if you are not a Christian – but God loves us too much to allow us to stay the way we are. We are like a stone with a flawed diamond in it! God wants to free the diamond in us, so that we shine and radiate his glory. He wants to grind away the flaws and polish us to perfection.

During times of trials God prepares us in a way we are inclined to forget: He uses it to build godly character. When you walk along the sea shore, you notice that the rocks are sharp in the quiet coves, but polished in those places where the waves beat against them. God can use the “waves and billows” of life to polish us, if we let him.

Source: The Transformation Study Bible (NLT), Colorado USA: David Cook Publishers (2009), commentary p.1974

Usually we don’t change until the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable. For most of us, knowledge is not the bridge to growth – pain is. No matter how much you love someone, don’t try to rescue them from God’s dealings. The worst thing you could have done for the Prodigal Son was to go down to the pigsty, clean it up and make it comfortable for him.

– Bob Gass


Source: The UCB Word For Today, 28/9/2011

There’s only one sure way you can know whether you really believe what you think you believe, say you believe, and ought to believe. Let God put your faith to the test. And don’t worry, He will. (…) A product that has never been tested to see if it can do what it claims it can do isn’t worth a whole lot. It’s the same with our faith.

Tony Evans

Tony Evans, Time To Get Serious, 1995, Illinois: Crossway Books, p.52-53

“Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes, because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust in his skill, and thank him for his prescription.”

John Newton (1725-1807) Church minister and hymnist

God sometimes allows a time of testing; desperation even, so that we learn to trust in Him alone. When we have nothing else to hold on to, except our faith; when God is our only hope, we learn to trust Him like never before. You remember Jesus said that we should pray daily asking our Father, to give us this day our daily bread… to supply our needs for today. Why did He say we should ask daily? For the same reason the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness were only allowed to collect enough manna for one day at a time. So that we’d learn to depend upon God daily as we journey through life. God has given us our lives in units of twenty-four hours so that we will seek Him and trust in Him daily.

Oceanographers tell us that even the worst ocean storms rarely extend more than twenty-five feet (8m) below the surface. Gales can rip the ocean, causing tidal waves one hundred feet (30m) high, but just twenty-five feet (8m) below the surface the water is as calm as a pond. The point is this: The only place you’ll ever find peace in the midst of life’s storms, is through an in-depth experience with God.

Source: The UCB Word For Today , 17/2/2016

A hurricane is one of the most powerful natural forces known to man. Wind gusts of up to 155 miles an hour; rain up to 5 inches an hour; the ability to create waves 10 storeys high, with surges up to 25 feet wide. Hurricanes have been known to level entire cities in minutes. In the eye of the storm there is relative calm as descending air currents inhibit storm development but the immediate surrounding wall of the storm contains the most powerful elements of the hurricane; the strongest winds and heaviest rains. There’s a lesson here for all of us. God doesn’t take away all our troubles – at least not as quickly as we’d like Him to – but He promises us peace in the midst of them. And if you ask Him, today God will bring you to that place of peace too!

Source: The UCB Word For Today , 5/2/2016

You can’t correct something unless you confront it.

“We are always in the forge, or on the anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.”

Henry Ward Beecher

God is preparing us for what he has prepared us for. Being a Christian means we have been accepted and justified before God; but it doesn’t mean we suddenly become perfect – at least not straight away – it means we are being sanctified (made holy); we are being prepared and made ready for perfection again. Our trials and tribulations test and discipline us; they refine us. Like purifying gold in a furnace… when the dross is burned off and removed what’s revealed underneath is pure gold. – God is preparing us for what he has prepared us for.

… greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:6-7