October 4, 1989
Last week I heard a blind woman say that God is teaching her to be thankful for her struggle with blindness. After that shocking statement, she pointed out that most people can thank God for the good things but few really understand His wise purpose for their trials.
And we all have them. There are trials with raising children, trials with the ups and downs of making a living, trials of learning new skills. We have ordinary trials and extraordinary trials. And although they may be part of life, do I really have to thank God for them?
James, a writer of one small book in the New Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this even more shocking statement: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds...”
So, not only does God want us to be thankful for trials, as my friend said, He wants us to be joyful! But is it the struggle with a trial that gives joy? Or something the trial will produce?
In the realm of nature, trials and struggles play a vital role in survival. For instance, if someone takes pity with the struggles of a hatching chick and helps it break through the eggshell, the chick will die. It works the same way for an emerging butterfly. Apparently, the struggle is important. Without it, there is not sufficient strength developed to go on with living.
However, which of us enjoy struggles? When trouble comes, most of us first think of ways we can get rid of the problem. We pray that God will fix it so we have no struggle. When fixing seems out of the question, then and only then will we ask for help to get through it. Could it be that we have missed the point of struggling?
James goes on to tell us we can rejoice when trials come because we “know the testing of our faith develops perseverance... so we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1). By that, He means struggles provide opportunity to gain strength for whatever trials and problems lie ahead. In other words, like the butterfly or the little chick, our struggles strengthen us for the rest of life.
For example, our family has moved over 20 times. After all that, do changes devastate us? Not as they once did. I’ve had severe illnesses and surgery a few times. Does a cold or the flu now throw me into reverse? Not like as it used to. My husband has worked on construction projects permeated by violence. Handguns even came to work in lunch pails. Does an angry employee now send him running for cover? Not likely.
Each of us can look back over our lives and see trials that, at the time, were horrible but they actually prepared us for facing the next trial without horror. We gained wisdom and insight that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. That is part of what James means.
But faith is really the issue. And faith cannot grow as a result of trials if we blame God for our problems or ignore His out-stretched hand. But if in our troubles, we reach out to Him, through faith in Christ, it will result in the happy discovery that God bigger than our problems.
Not only that, He can use any trial as a plus for our life, not a minus. Romans 8:28 promises, “... He is able to work all things together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Verse 29 describes that “good” as being conformed to the image of His Son. God is so set on that shaping process that He even uses negatives as positives.
It’s not that the Lord couldn’t cut through the confines of our tough situations so we have no struggling. Sometimes He does. But there are occasions when He seems to turn a blind eye to our problems. He just doesn’t fix them. When that happens, beware of thinking He doesn’t care, that He is heartlessly refusing to help us. Instead, remember the little chicks and the butterflies.