Dealing With Our Trials
Currently I am in the midst of a Bible study by James MacDonald, When Life is Hard – Turning Your Trials to Gold. The title intrigued me when I first heard it announced at my women’s Bible study last month. I thought to myself, “Oh, another example of God’s perfect timing. He knows what I need right now.” However, I have to admit that the study is not at all what I had expected.
Throughout the first half of the study, MacDonald has emphasized that followers of Christ should expect trials in their lives (Hebrews 12:5). This idea is not new to me, although it flies in the face of the Prosperity Gospel that seems to be so rampant in America today. He writes, “One purpose of [trials] is that God wants us to be aware of our utter dependence on Him… (God) knows unless we realize our helplessness, we won’t rely on Him or experience all He has for us and all He can accomplish though us.” This quote highlights an idea that seemed foreign to me at first; the idea that as Christians we should look forward to our trials, and rejoice in the trial itself. I was a little taken aback by that ideology initially. Tolerate, yes…but rejoice??? I have rejoiced in knowing that God is with me during my troubled times. I have certainly found myself celebrating when troubles have resolved. But I don’t think I have ever thought, “This situation that I am in sucks, Praise God!” That being said, I am beginning to understand MacDonald’s perspective more clearly. The secret is all in how we view the current challenge that God has placed in front of us. We should view each trial in our life like working a jigsaw puzzle.
Piecing it Together
I grew up in a family that loved to work jigsaw puzzles. Whenever the weatherman predicted snow, we would hurry to the store to get the essentials: milk, eggs, bread, and jigsaw puzzles. As soon as the first flurry was spotted, a puzzle was opened and the pieces spilled out. The first order of business, of course, was to pull out all the edge pieces – followed by sorting the remainder by color and/or shape. We would sit there for hours around the table talking, laughing, and periodically peering out the window to check for any accumulation as we assembled piece by piece. When God presents us with a trial we should work through it in much the same manner, metaphorically speaking. Organizing our thoughts, we examine each aspect of the issue we’re facing to determine what God is trying to reveal to us. Only then, with the clear reminder that He is with us, can we proceed through the trial step by step, keeping our eyes on the Lord.
So Now What?
We should recognize that it is often folly to try and work through a trial alone. Like a puzzle, the workload is easier with someone assisting you along the way. This highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with godly people who are actively walking with Him. Believers understand the necessity of these trials, and are willing to help you carry your load as you help them carry theirs. Our peers may act as scaffolding, keeping us braced for whatever we face, or as navigators to nudge us back onto the path when we stray. Throughout my lifetime I have worked hundreds of jigsaw puzzles (yes I’m old, as Kip loves to remind me), and have noticed that people often have different approaches when it comes to jigsaw puzzles. Some, like my family, love puzzles and the time and effort that go into to working them. There is a sense of accomplishment when the final piece goes in. Others watch from the sidelines until the puzzle is almost completed, and swoop in to help put in those last few pieces – celebrating as if they had been working the entire time. Finally, others question the whole process because they don’t understand why anyone would put in so much effort just to tear it back apart after it is finished. Like jigsaw puzzles, our struggles in life take time and effort to get through. We need truly godly friends, not friends like Job’s. We need those that are willing to help us walk through trials from beginning to end, even when everything looks like a chaotic mess. I can’t imagine going through the past year without my support group. I am so thankful for each of them. Of course, God is with us and provides guidance through His providence, Word and Holy Spirit…but I don’t believe He intends for us to walk alone. He puts people into our lives for reasons.
As I wrote earlier, I am beginning to understand MacDonald’s perspective on our attitude toward trials. It is more than praising God IN the trial; we should praise God FOR the trial itself. With every difficulty, we have the opportunity to grow closer to Him, so rejoice. He is glorified every time we look to Him for guidance. He uses each of these difficulties to shape and mold us into what He would have us to be. Again I say, “Rejoice.” For this reason, I resolve to view all of my current and future trials as pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of what God wants me to be. I will examine each piece…each struggle, trial or trouble….in search of what God is trying to teach me. I will continue to keep my support network in place that is willing to help me when trials arise and be available for God to use me in their lives as well. Most importantly, I will praise Him. I will praise Him not only when a trial is complete, or for the knowledge that He is there with me during the trial – but I will praise Him for loving me enough to discipline me with problems. Because I know that when He is finished I will be a beautiful masterpiece, His beautiful masterpiece.
5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.