December 4, 2012 by Stacy McDonald
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. – Horatio G. Spafford
A while back, I did a study using Martha Peace’s book, Damsels in Distress. The last chapter focused on responding biblically to trials. It was a good chapter, and I found myself examining the various trials I’ve experienced in my life and whether or not I’ve always responded to them in a godly way. To my shame, I determined that I am often a great big failure at trials; but, thankfully God uses them in my life anyway. With God, nothing is wasted.
And that’s the point. Mrs. Peace reveals how trials may initially bring out the worst in us: anger, bitterness, fear, laziness, self-focus, etc. And isn’t that the truth? Our first reaction to stress or tribulation may expose hidden sin that needs to be purged, as the “worst in us” is revealed. Yet, as Mrs. Peace points out, God uses conflict and trials to expose and show us our sin, prune it off, and grow in us the precious fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
“But thankfully, this ‘worst’ is pruned off as God convicts us of our sin and helps us turn from sin to righteousness. The pain from God’s pruning will fade as the fruit of righteousness flowers for all to see.” – Martha Peace
Often, trials expose in us a wrong understanding or view of God. Many times the “why?” we ask God, in regards to the purpose or meaning of our pain, is actually a sinful demand of Him for an explanation. We may give God a great big list of “all the things” we’ve done for Him, and ask, “This is what I get in return?”
This exposes in us a spirit of unthankfulness and a wrong view of God. It proves that we are under the impression that God owes us something; when, in fact, we owe Him everything. Forgetting His goodness and mercy, forgetting His sovereignty, forgetting His love for us, forgetting to be grateful to Him for everything He’s done for us, we are blinded and consumed by our pain. We want answers…and we want them now.
However, if we are fully persuaded of His goodness, if we trust His sovereignty, if we know His love, and give Him thanks in all things, including the suffering He brings, then we will walk through suffering praising His name, comforted by His peace, and growing in grace. We will welcome His painful pruning and embrace His healing touch – bearing precious fruit in the end. A proper view of God and His nature matters…a lot.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?…Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.” (Job 38:4-7, 40:2)
When I consider God’s sovereignty, I find myself answering with Job:
“Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4)
Another thing this study made me realize is that God uses all of our trials for our good and His glory – even the trials we experienced before we became Christians. After all, before we knew Him, He knew us very well. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)
The following image is a picture of the type of back brace I wore as a child. I was required to wear this contraption 24 hours a day to slow down the progression of scoliosis in my back. At the end of the seven years, with an 82 degree s-curve, I underwent back surgery to fuse my spine. After that, I wore a body cast for nine months…and then I was “free.” Or so I thought.
I recall all sorts of irreverent thoughts I had during those 7 years, and shudder. Some I even spoke aloud to God in bed at night: “Why are You punishing me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why did You make me – just so that I would be miserable?” “How can You be truly good when You make me suffer like this?” “Please, please, please, just let me die.” I remember these thoughts and the emotions that went with them vividly.
Though I suffered during my “brace years” from physical pain, emotional trauma, humiliation, and fear, nothing compared to the pain brought about by my own sin, and by my misunderstanding of God and His nature. You see, I hated what others could see, my physical deformity and the brace that made it so obvious to others. But secretly, I knew it was even worse than that. I knew how ugly I was on the inside. I knew my secret, wicked thoughts and desires. I knew I was no good – inside or out.
My utter separation from God left me angry, terrified, isolated, broken, and despairing. Yet God used my “poor self image” and my “unresolved anger” to bring me closer to seeing my sin and my deep, deep need for Jesus. Even after I was able to shed my back brace, and body cast, the twisted ugliness inside remained. I was still miserable, bitter, insecure, fearful, and filled with shame. My sin remained. But, in the midst of it, God was working.
Years later, after becoming a Christian, God began to show me the “work” He had begun in me even before I knew Him. He’s still faithfully doing that work. The suffering I experienced those many years ago was not in vain. He is still using it for my good and His greater glory.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
How about you? Are you allowing the trials of life and the trauma of the past to rule your life? Or are you thanking God for your trials and trusting His goodness, His sovereignty, and His love for you, knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose?” (Romans 8:28)
“All things” means all things. Know that God gives us trials because He loves us enough to mold us and conform us into His image. All the trials He sends our way are motivated by His love for us, and He provides rest, preservation, strength, and comfort along the way, even if we aren’t able to to see it at the time. Pray right now that God would prepare you ahead of time to endure trials to His glory. Ask Him to help you respond biblically to deep hurts and minor irritations alike. All to the glory of God!
Points to remember when going through a trial:
1. God is good. (Psalm 100)
2. God is sovereign (Job 38-30)
3. God loves His own (Heb. 12:6)
4. Thank God. (1 Thes. 5:18)
5. The trial is for your good: your discipline, pruning, molding, and shaping. (Rom. 8:28)
6. The purpose is for God’s ultimate glory. (John 11:4)
7. God is merciful toward us (Eph. 2:4)