Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4 (ESV)
It’s a scary word. We fear this word. Upon hearing it, we tend to cringe or clam up. No one wants to go through a trial, no one wants to struggle, no one wants to experience that.
Yet in the Bible, we are told to meet our trials with joy. Joy? Really? Joy is the last thing on my mind when I’m going through a trial.
Did you have joy during your last trial? I think I found myself complaining through most of it, wondering why me, poor little me, had to endure another trial. My life didn’t need a trial. I didn’t need to learn some life lesson. I was good without it. Or was I?
Looking back over my life, there have been several pivotal trials in my life that actually turned out to be blessings in disguise, that actually turned out to be the making and the breaking moments of the person I am today. I look back now and can’t imagine what the outcome would have been if everything in my life hadn’t been challenged when it was. I’m so glad I didn’t get exactly what I wanted. I’m so glad God moved in my life in those exact moments. I’m so glad God saved me from various mistakes. I’m so glad God took things I really thought I needed away from me. I’m so glad I was rejected by others when I wanted to be accepted. I’m thankful for plans that fell apart. I’m thankful for the various trials because not only did I grow in my faith and my walk with Jesus Christ, but I grew as a person. I learned how to be more discerning, I learned how to be more careful, I learned how to be less reckless. I learned how to trust God more.
I look at the person I was before the trials, and I see the person I am now, and I’m actually grateful. I’m amazed at the changes in my thought pattern. I’m amazed at the changes in my outlook on life and others. During the trials, I never thought I would be grateful for them, but now I fear what type of person I would have become without them. I never thought I would look back and say, “yep, this is the best thing for me!” But I can…now.
Trials grow us, trials mature us, trials help us become better people. If we allow them to…
Inevitably we are all going to go through trials at some point in our life. Sorry, at multiple times in our life. Some are bigger, some smaller. Some are life-altering while others are more like an annoying buzzing fly. But regardless of the scale or type, they affect our lives in one way or another. We can’t get around them. Whether we are leaving one behind, or we are about to face one head on, trials are lurking around every corner of our lives. And for good reason: we need them.
If our lives were an absolute picnic from the time we were born until the time we died, we would remain very childlike, very immature individuals. We wouldn’t ever have the means or the necessities to grow. Trials aren’t fun. They wouldn’t be called trials if there were, but they can be a learning experience if we allow ourselves to look at the bigger picture.
What if we looked at trials a little differently? What if we chose to approach them differently? Instead of fighting them or complaining about them, what if we tried to be at peace and allow God to work through them? Instead of looking at a trial as the end of something, try looking at it as the beginning of a new chapter, a new era, a chance to begin fresh, a chance for a new perspective. We don’t learn if we aren’t challenged. We won’t grow and we don’t grow in stagnate situations. When everything is going our way, we don’t try to become better.
Think of the baby bird analogy. Everyone has heard that a mother bird will kick her baby birds out of the nest when it’s time for them to learn to fly. The mother isn’t being cruel. She isn’t abandoning the babies, forsaking her responsibilities, wishing them the best as she carries on to warmer climates and sunny beaches, but rather she is helping them. This trial is vital for them to learn survival in the wild. After the mother nudges them out of the nest, she continues to monitor their progress on the ground while they vigorously flap their wings trying to learn to fly; she continues to feed them; she continues to make sure they’re safe from predators. Couldn’t she have just left them in the nest and continued on as usual? Sure. But that wouldn’t have served to their benefit. She is encouraging them to learn how to fend for themselves by kicking them out of their warm, safe, comfortable home. In that nest, the baby birds have everything: food, protection, comfort, their mother, but if they ever want to grow up and face the world, they have to learn to do all those things. They couldn’t stay comfortable forever.
The same goes for us. We won’t grow mentally, emotionally, or spiritually if we are never challenged. As Christians, as people, we need trials to grow. We need trials, so God can teach us valuable lessons. We need trials, so we can become more like Him. We need trials so we can learn to persevere, and we can grow in steadfastness. Through trials we learn more about God’s character. We learn more about his steadfast love, his mercy, his grace. Through trials, we learn to let God be our greatest comforter. Trials challenge us. Trials push us to dig deeper. Trials push us to lean more toward Christ.
Think about some tough situations or tough decisions you experienced in the past. Think about what you or your life was like before the incident, and now think about what was different afterwards.
Did you grow through it? Are you thankful for it?
What trial are you experiencing right now? Are you learning through it? Are you allowing yourself to grow through it? Are you letting yourself see God work through your life?
We aren’t always shown the benefits of our trials immediately. Sometimes it takes years of maturity to look back and be able to see what God was working on in our lives. I know for me personally, some trials took days, some months, other years. Today, I still look back over the past years and see where God was working through different circumstances in my life. And I know he is continuing to work through my life in different ways. I don’t know what’s coming next, but I pray that I will be able to find joy in any and all circumstances.
Don’t wait years to be thankful for what God is doing in your life. You can start trying today to learn how to work through your individual challenges and trials. With a sincere heart, ask God to show you what He is trying to teach you through each one of your trials. Today, you can try to grow through them, learn through them. You never know what God is working through your life, not only for your sake, but for those around you.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter1:6-7