Most of us, I’m afraid, don’t react properly to trial. But if we did, the bible tells us that we would “yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness.” In this blog, I will address what we mean by trails, how they come to us, why God allows them, how not to react to trials, and how we should react to them.
What Are Trials?
Someone may have in mind one particular trial, but here we are talking about anything, any trouble that the Lord may use to try our faith; that is, that He may use to train us and build up our faith. In 1 Peter 1:6-7 (KJV), Peter spoke of “manifold temptations.”
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: KJV
In the book Spiritual Depression, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he pointed out that this term means “many-coloured.” Thus, he said that these early Christians were experiencing trials of many “different shapes and forms and there is no end to the variety.”
So what are we talking about? We are talking about trouble, any trouble we are having that gives us a heavy feeling. We are talking about any kind of loss, or sickness, or grief, or disappointment, or fear, or pain, or even dread or guilt over sin. And, of course, we are talking about persecution and suffering of all kinds.
How Trials Come to Us
They come to us largely through our circumstances—through everything we encounter in life every day. And, of course, they are the result of sin and a cursed world, something we will never escape in this life.
Why God Allows Trials and Sometimes Even Orders Trials
The author of Hebrews, in Hebrews 12:5-11, addresses this well.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. KJV
In this passage it is clear to see that God uses trails to discipline us (train us, or chasten us). And He does it because we are His children and He loves us. I think we could regard trials like weighs that an athlete would lift to make himself stronger. In the spiritual sense, trials will build up our faith and our resistance to sin.
In this passage the author seems to be saying that God is always watching over us, and He knows what each of us needs in order to be holy. Thus, He will put upon us those things—those particular trials—that will best bring about the training He intends for us, so to bring to us His desired result—holiness and righteousness. Some may be lazy and have a weak faith; He has a designed trial to correct it. Some have the sin of pride; He has trials to make them humble, etc. Some trials will help to safeguard us from sinful temptations. And most trials, I suppose will stimulate spiritual fruit—if the trials are reacted to correctly.
Now we can never know exactly how God works; but I would suggest that sometimes He allows or permits trials to happen to us, and sometimes He will order them upon us. I suppose, if our sins and the world and the devil can’t come up with the trials that are appropriate for our situation, He will order them, even from the devil. And God in His wisdom is sovereign in all things.
How Not to React to Trials
We have been talking about how God uses trials to help us grow in faith. But, as Lloyd-Jones has pointed out, “the mere fact that we are chastised does not mean that, of necessity, we are going to benefit by it.” We have to react properly to trials. We have to look to God in trials and submit to Him through it all. Here are three ways that many have wrongly reacted to trials.
They despise it. That is, they don’t want to think about it and they even pretend that it isn’t there. They say, all is well, nothing is wrong. They shake it off as to get rid of it. They put the trial out of their mind. But in doing that they are rejecting what God is giving them to help them, and in so doing they are rejecting God. Thus, when they despise the trial, it does them no good and will even put them in a worse state.
They let it discourage them. The writer of Hebrews says, “nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” So we are not to be discouraged when the Lord reproves us by trials, instead we are to understand that He give us trials to discipline us because he loves us. This correct thinking ought to bring us out of our discouragement.
They become bitter. When a person continues to reject the Lord in the trials and doesn’t seek to understand it, and even blames God for it, he will eventually become bitter. If this happens, they open the door to evil in their life, causing many to be defiled (Heb. 12:15).
How to React Correctly to Trials
Here are five correct reactions to trials, which, if appropriated, will build a strong foundation of faith.
Seek to understand why. The first thing you should say to yourself is, “why is this happening to me?” Then ask God to help you understand it. Also, reflect on the fact that He loves you and disciplines every son whom He loves.
Confess every sin and repent. As you are doing this, perhaps God will show you some weakness in your faith and you will understand why He is disciplining you as He is.
Submit to God. Say to yourself with the Psalmist, “It was good for me that I have been afflicted…Before I was afflicted I went astray…” Say to God that you are willing for Him to give you all the affliction necessary to accomplish His will in you.
Look to Jesus as our example. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…”
Rejoice. James says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
My thanks to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for his book Spiritual Depression, which were of great help to me in forming the outline for this blog post.