Trials and Tribulations
by Cody Horne
We will endure various trials at many times throughout our lives. We might become financially unstable, lose a close relative, get fired, lose a partner, or have to endure a multitude of other hardships. Many will lose things they hold dear. As believers, how are we to respond to such trials?
When faced with such hardships, many Christians become anxious, depressed, and angry. These are natural reactions. It’s our natural position to desire pleasure and dislike the removal of pleasure. We want control of our lives because we wish to minimize displeasure and maximize joy.
However, we should ask ourselves why our focus is on a life of pleasure and self-fulfillment. Of course pleasure is pleasurable, but should this be our end goal? When our end goal in life is to take in the most enjoyment we possibly can and minimize as much pain as possible we will be disappointed with our lives.
This perspective of a pleasure driven life is not the way in which Christians are called to live. Scripture teaches us to expect trials and tribulations.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” – James 1:2
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:12
A wise minister once pointed out to me something quite important about James 1:2. The verse says, “when you meet trials” not “if you meet trials”. Trials will come in this life. It should be expected.
If it is expected, then why are so many Christians crushed when trials arrive? Do we not know they are coming? One of the major problems for believers is that we are still living in a pursuit of pleasure mindset. Pleasure is our end goal. I am in no way saying these trials should not hurt, or that they do not cause suffering. I am simply saying that if pleasure is our end goal, then our lives will be nothing more than a roller coaster ride filled with high and low moments. At the end of the ride, we will realize we have wasted our time.
Count It All Joy
The first part of James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy.” How could anyone count losing a spouse or being robbed as joy? Don’t these things bring lots of pain and no pleasure? Of course they don’t bring pleasure; however we are to have a different perspective about them. We are to count them as joy because Paul tells us in Romans 5:3 “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance”.
What is this endurance Paul speaks of? It is the constant shaping of our lives to reflect Christ. Tribulations in this life are God’s method of shaping us into the image of his Son. So, if the trials of this life are meant to be the tools God uses to shape us, how are we supposed to respond to such trials?
We are to embrace them. No, this doesn’t mean we somehow have to force ourselves to enjoy them. They are painful and there isn’t anything we can do to change that. However, we should not beg God to take the trials away simply because they are painful. Too many times Christians beg God to get them out of their situation. God is using the trials to shape us and asking to be removed from them would mean He will have to teach us the same lessons again in the future. We should not ask God to “get us out” but ask Him to “get us through.” We should ask Him to show us what He wishes to show us, so we can learn and become more like Christ.
What About Needs?
Do not think that this perspective says God doesn’t want us to have pleasure. It does not say that He doesn’t care about our physical needs. He does care about these needs as well as our spiritual needs. The issue arises when we spend our time worrying about these physical needs and pleasures.
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:29-31
Here we see a God who cares about our day-to-day needs but tells us to “seek his kingdom” and He will provide. This is the perspective believers ought to have when we are going through trials or catch ourselves worrying about our futures. God tells us to seek Him and He will provide everything else.
As Christians, we must change our perspective on what we need. Pleasure should not be the end goal in life. If it is our end goal we will be disappointed. Our focus is to be on Christ and becoming more like Him. We shouldn’t cry “get us out” of various trials in life. We should realize that God is using these trials to shape us into the image of His Son, and ask Him to teach us what He wants us to learn. God is also not neglecting our physical needs. God knows what we need and we should not spend our lives worrying and being depressed about what we think we need but don’t have.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6:26