IT SEEMS I NEED REMINDING of a simple principle all the time. I am to consider it “pure joy” whenever I face trials of many kinds (James 1:2). Why? Because trials test my confidence in what I believe. Does God really love me? Can I really trust that he is working in everything for my good? As I rehearse and affirm these realities in my mind, renewing my confidence in them I persevere in faith. It is like weight-lifting; the more reps I do the greater my faith muscles grow. And faith is having an assurance about things that are not seen. Faith is hope, a confident expectation. And when I have hope in God I have peace and joy.
Trials also bring me back to the principle of “giving up” my life – my will and desires -- to God. Under trials I find myself wishing for certain things even more than I wish for God himself. But Jesus promised that those who give up their lives actually gain them. That is, our souls become satisfied in God. The peace and joy we might seek in things other than God will never come because there is no such thing as peace and joy apart from God. Trials help to remove futile idols from our hearts. Under trials we want things other than God but as our faith wrestles with our trials we give those idols up to God and we get him instead.
And pain is sent to us from God as a form of discipline to make us holy. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children” (Hebrews 12:7). Why does God send experiences of stress, disappointment, and threat? “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” (Hebrews 12:11). And so the writer of Hebrews urges us in the next verse not to be feeble under discipline, not to despair or doubt or give up, but to take them in stride as the very things that are best for us.
God loves us so much, and desires so much our transformation into Christ-likeness that he will send a steady experience of trial and pain our way so that under such training we will grow. Every difficulty, every pain, is an opportunity for gain.