James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
No one likes trials, but they are part of life. How we respond to them is the big question. I don’t think anyone responds to every trial the same way. Different personalities respond to the same sort of trial differently. What might be no big deal for one person might seem earth-shattering to another. However, the more experience we have in getting through trials, the easier it will be to get through the next one. That’s why parents who do all they can to spare their children from any possible trial are doing them no favors. Recently the response of numbers of people to the American presidential election has caused the term, snowflakes, to be used to describe them. Snowflakes are remarkably fragile, beautiful in protected isolation but easily crushed or melted. If we have no experience in enduring trials of various sorts we will be snowflakes indeed, done in by the most minor of inconveniences. God isn’t looking for snowflakes in heaven! God allows trials in our lives to toughen us, to teach us to fix our hearts on Him rather than on the things of this world. Jesus famously told us that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) From a slightly different slant, Hebrews tells us “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11) What seems like a trial to us might be discipline that we have brought on ourselves, but in any case, if we respond to it by drawing closer to God in humility and trust, the result will be good. To get back to the image of parenting, parents who fail to discipline their children are condemning them to much more crushing experiences in the future. Whether it’s a trial or it’s discipline, the wise course is to look to God and “grin and bear it.”
I’ve experienced both circumstantial trials and personal discipline more times than I could count. None of it’s much fun! That said, I can easily see the benefits in my life of having made it through all of them, and I am grateful. As a pastor, my biggest trials are in dealing with those who don’t know how to deal with trials! Some people are so pampered that they make it even to old age without ever being refused anything they wanted. They are really pathetic! It takes far more to deal with them than with the vast majority of other people. I am not to condemn them, but continue to speak the truth in love to them, both in words and in actions, and I am to rejoice at the opportunity to grow further myself. I know that nothing that is yielded to God is ever wasted, but will be used by Him for blessing and for His glory. (Romans 8:28) I have gotten a lot of kickback when I have tried to share this truth, from people who thought I was treating their trials lightly. That has never been my intention, though at times their trials do seem pretty light to me. I realize that my trials might seem light to them! I am to remember at all times that we are all equally in need of God’s grace, and that His grace is indeed sufficient for us all, if we will only receive it. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Father, thank You for all You allow me to experience. When I am writing like this it is easy to be objective, but in the middle of it all I am too prone to lose my bearings. Help me indeed fix my heart on You and teach others to do likewise, so that together we may receive all that You have prepared for us, for our great blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!