James wrote, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perserverance, and perserverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Sounds good on paper, but who likes trials in real life?
In thinking about what makes a trial a trial, I’ve concluded one common denominator is some form of loss. For instance: loss of health, ability, money, opportunity, dreams, a loved one, possesions, freedom, comfort, identity, reputation, respect, relationships, a job, the list goes on and on.
Compared to many people, I haven’t had many trials to speak of. But one that does stick out in my mind is a back problem I had several years ago. The nerve between my L2/L3 vertebrae became impinged due to a disc herniation. The losses I faced were comfort and mobility. In exchange I received pain and irritation. I also lost value in my own eyes: I didn’t feel worth as much crippled. Of course my worth never really changed because that’s based on what God thinks of me, not what I or others think of me. Anyways, the whole situation wasn’t much fun at the time. And sadly, I clearly remember not having much joy.
Whenever we face loss we are again reminded of our fragility, our need for someone or something bigger than ourselves. Our loss provides an opportunity for God’s strength to be shown in our lives. It also makes us more mature as we grasp Truth in new ways: experientially. Or, we can become hard and bitter toward God.
In my situation, one outcome was I thought more about God and spiritual things in general. And I remember questioning much in my life I’d previously thought was important. Additionally, I grasped Truth in new ways: particularly my frailty, the importance of taking advantage of opportunities while I still have the chance, and the sufficiency of God. All in all, it was life changing and I’m glad it happened, in retrospect. Never thought I’d come to say that!
This train of thought was all brought to mind by a comment Tim said this past Sunday in his message about the afflictions of Job. He said, "Job was better off at the end of the story than he was at the beginning."
Now it’s true that after the dust settled Job was blessed with twice as much material goods as he had originally, plus another 10 children… but no one would say children are replaceable!
If Job was better off in the end (which I do think he was) then perhaps it was intangibly, even though he was also blessed materially. I would say Job was better off in the sense he had been driven to his knees to seek God with his entire heart and soul and as a result encountered God in a way he never would have otherwise. Trials, losses, suffering, all have a way of bringing us to these encounters with God.
Can we say with Paul, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”? (Philippians 3:10)
What do you think?
“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-4)