The last time you experienced a trial, you probably asked the question we all ask at one time or another. Why? I asked that same question myself recently, and I believe I found a few answers worth sharing.

Why does the trial last longer than we want?

If we’re honest, trials are rarely over as soon as we hoped. Why? Because they generally serve a purpose. James 1:3 tells us trials produce endurance (or perseverance) and will, ultimately, perfect and complete a part of us which is not quite perfect.

They teach us what we need to know if we’re willing to learn it.

Nearly five months is a long time for a problem you expected to resolve in a matter of days. Initially, I dealt with the viral infection in my eye much like a bout of influenza: a few days of rest plus a full course of medication and back to my routine. Unfortunately, the viral infection was here to stay. After considerably more than three months, my viral eye infection is, by definition, a chronic problem. I don’t like knowing that, but it’s true. It’s time to adapt to the chronicity and “learn to live with it.” Though I’ve spoken those words to hundreds of patients over the years, I truly despise them, especially when they pertain to me.

Why learn something when I’m suffering?

There’s always a lesson to learn. We waste the trial, and we may prolong it if we fail to learn it.

There’s something to learn in my trial, and I’ve spent a good bit of time considering the available lessons. Many people suggested I needed to  learn to “rest more.” In truth, mucking out a stall or working in the yard is restful to me, so I rest more than you might believe, but I’ve made an effort to get more physical rest. I don’t know if it’s helped me or not, but it hasn’t changed the eye problem.

The most important lesson I learned (so far) in this recent trial is more reinforcement than new information:

God wants my availability but He can handle putting things together without my help.

I did a bit less and surrendered considerably more. Despite my lifelong propensity for “yes,” I said no a few times. It’s incredibly freeing to let God open doors, close them, and direct my path. He’s given enough vision for what needs to be done in that moment and enough energy for every task. There’s not enough computer time (eye-wise) for all I want to do, or all I think I need to do, but I have enough for the essentials. It’s not exactly a new way of doing things, but it is an easier way, and that’s a bonus.

Why do trials have to change our lifestyle?

Trials can, and often do, affect everything about our lives. From changes in physical and emotional health to jobs, income, family, community, and housing, trials have far-reaching, and often unwelcome implications. If we allow it to perfect and complete us, the trial will almost always leave us, and our lifestyle, different in some way.

We live in a culture focused on comfort and immediate gratification. We want what we want and we want it when we want it. If we were content and comfortable in our “before,” our response to the change wrought by trial may be anger, bitterness, and resentment. We may kick against the barbs rather than surrender to the work of God.

Why give thanks when you don’t feel grateful?

James 1:2 suggests a different response to trial. JOY. Considering it all joy doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a choice we make. How do we find joy in the midst of hard times? I believe it begins with thanksgiving. It may be hard to find something about which you feel thankful, but giving thanks isn’t about feelings. It’s about obedience.

When we give thanks in the midst of a trial, it changes our perception of the trial as well as our perception of the livestyle modifications required by our circumstances.

They become less offensive and are eventually seen as acceptable if not welcome. If the “point” of the lifestyle change is to be more like Jesus (and it is), we should – eventually – recognize and embrace the benefit.

What is there to be thankful about in my trial? There have been a few days when I would answer “nothing,” but that’s discouragement speaking. In truth, God has provided everything I need, including enough money to pay for unexpected medical bills and unbudgeted prescriptions – sometimes just in the nick of time. I gained more medical knowledge in an area that wasn’t my strong suit. The travel plans I canceled were replaced by other ministry opportunities. Many people stepped in to help when I couldn’t do what needed to be done. Because of the difference in lighting, I spend more time at home and less at the office now – a good thing for someone who works best from the comfort of the screened porch.

Why spiritual warfare may, or may not, be a part of the trial…

Some friends suggested the enemy was trying to steal my ministry. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but I know one thing for sure. The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) but I don’t plan to relinquish anything to him.

The evil one tempts, but we have the choice to resist and flee or stay and surrender.

I’ve slowed down in some areas, but I haven’t surrendered, and I don’t intend to do so. The ministry work I do doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to God. I enjoy sitting back a bit and watching God orchestrate the things I don’t think possible. My computer time is drastically limited right now, hence less blogging and online presence, but I haven’t stopped serving. In some ways, the work of ministry is more remarkable and exciting than ever before.

Why the battle?

Let’s talk a moment about spiritual warfare. An evil being patrolling the earth seeking whom he may devour is a chilling concept. The image of a sleek, powerful lion, stalking his prey, ready to pounce comes to mind. It’s accurate and a little terrifying. Why? Maybe we’re intimidated by our enemy because we fail to understand the might and power of our defender.

Spiritual warfare is not a one-sided battle. 

All power and might do not exist on the side of the evil one. We have spiritual armor for our defense. We also have a loving Savior who prays for us non-stop (Hebrews 7:25) and a Father who willingly wades into the fray on our behalf (Isaiah 52:10-12), as well as warring angels at His disposal to assist in our battles. (Daniel 10:13-21) The victory is already won. (John 16:33)

We need not succumb to the schemes of the enemy of our soul.

Paul wrote wise words to the Corinthians. All temptations have been tried before. God will always provide a way of escape. Our job is to take the escape God offers. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Why do we have trials?

Problems as a result of our own bad choices aren’t trials. They’re consequences.

We do, however, live in a fallen world filled with sin and darkness. Evil exists and is active and destructive. It works tirelessly and wins whatever territory we’re willing to relinquish. If we’re making headway into enemy territory, we can be sure he will fight back against us. We should not be surprised when difficulties come our way. Instead, we must stand firm and hold the ground we’ve gained.

As hard as it is to accept, some problems are the result of a fallen world. In a perfect world, no tornados, wildfires, hurricanes or volcanos would rage and destroy lives or property. Earthquakes would never shake ground or buildings. There would be nothing “natural” about disasters. Disobedience to God not only brought sin into the world but also imperfection. Natural disasters are a result of the fall. When we experience a natural disaster, we’re not being punished by God or whipped by our enemy.

Even in the terror, destruction, and sorrow of disaster, we can still find lessons to learn, love to share, and blessings to gain.

Jesus said we’d have trials, and we do. Accepting Christ does not bring fewer troubles. It may bring more because some trials are perfectly designed to accomplish a beautiful purpose in us. Some are a kind of “piercing” intended to remove the “not like Jesus” so what remains is more like Him than ever before.

Why waste the trial?

Every difficulty demands a response. We can choose to whine, complain, surrender, be angry, or refuse to change, but why would we? Trials come with the guarantee of a chance to learn, change, grow. They offer the invaluable opportunity to become more like Jesus – if we will.  In case becoming more like Jesus doesn’t seem like enough of a reward, James suggests one more. The crown of life.

The question we should ask is not whether or not we’ll have a trial, nor why, but when it comes, what will we do with it? Will we let it mold us to be more like Jesus or reject the pain and embrace the world?

A trial can be a blessing in disguise. It all depends on how we respond.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has  been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:2-4, 12 nasb

You might also enjoy reading:

Seven Truths You Need to Thrive in Hard Times

What Four Days of Digital Silence Taught Me About Myself

Seven Steps to Regain a Heart of Gratitude 

Choosing Contentment and a Grateful Heart

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