I hesitate to write about the topic of trials, because so there are so many books and videos and blog posts available from much smarter people than me, but as I sit here in my office, this is where I am in life. It’s my turn to deal with something that feels big, overwhelming, and unsolvable.
I’m certain I don’t have anything new to offer when it comes to wading through these times of life. But as a personal exercise of processing what’s going on in my world, I want to share with you what I’m learning in hopes that something I’ve gained will be useful to you. Before I begin, let me state my biases. I am a Jesus follower who is trying to be serious about becoming more like Him, and that fact impacts the way in which I deal with trials. And second, because I believe Jesus has the answers I am looking for, He is my resource for truth and for answers.
Without going into details, the trial I am facing is something that happened to me, as opposed to something that I caused. This trial is requiring me to adapt to a new normal in a couple of important areas of my life. When viewed from a strictly human perspective, this trial has no obvious or reasonable solution. In other words, if something special (supernatural) doesn’t happen, there’s gonna be trouble.
I’ve had about a week to digest all this. I’ve been praying a lot, thinking a lot, and here’s where I’ve landed so far:
First, the knee-jerk human reaction to a trial is to seek relief. It hurts, and we want it to stop. We want answers, and we want them now. If there’s been an injustice, then somebody needs to pay. I’m not saying that’s the wrong way to think. I’m saying there might be a better way to think.
The better reaction is to seek refinement. As I read the Bible, I learn that not only are trials a universal human experience, but trials seem to be one of God’s favorite methods of teaching humans and revealing Himself. If this is true, trials can be a pivotal experience that yields life-changing results. What if, in response to a trial, our goal becomes to learn the intended lesson instead of finding the quickest way back to what’s comfortable?
And here’s something else that has occurred to me. When we experience difficulty, it isn’t God’s ability to rescue us that is on trial. It’s our faith that God is able to rescue us that hangs in the balance. I can’t recall a single instance when God left a person helpless or hopeless. And neither can I recall God’s power to ever be insufficient to solve any problem of any kind. When faced with a trial, my default prayer is, “God, this thing is huge and hairy and impossible. Can you do anything about this?” I wonder if that isn’t a little offensive to God. If He can part seas and bring dead people back to live, then surely he can deal with my trial, too.
I wish I could offer you a fail safe three step plan to successfully navigate the crises in your life, but I can’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure there isn’t one. Until God does His thing, we’re on His timeline. Is there anything we can do in the meantime? I have three suggestions:
Ask Jesus to come close to you, right where you are. You might be angry, or scared, or overwhelmed, or grieving, or a thousand other emotions. Wherever you are and whatever you’re feeling, invite Jesus to sit down right next to you and stay with you. Peace and comfort seem to follow Jesus around, and I believe His presence will be enough to sustain you until the logjam breaks.
Ask for understanding. If your trial has an intended lesson interwoven in it, then ask Jesus exactly what He’s working on in you. This is especially helpful if broken relationships are involved, because people (including you and I) sometime act and react in bizarre ways that aren’t easy to understand. Asking Jesus to show you the deeper dynamics of what’s going on will help you cooperate more fully with the process.
Be willing to accept a new normal. When we are enduring a trial that involves stress and pain, our concept of relief is for God to repair what’s broken by restoring the circumstance back to the way things were. But what if the way things were needed to change? Sometimes God uses trials to break unhealthy habits, end toxic relationships, or nudge us in some direction that we have been until now unwilling to consider. God isn’t only in the business of repairing what’s broken. He is also an expert at creating things more beautiful and healthy than we can imagine. Sometimes a trial is the pathway to something completely new.
Thank you for reading as I try to process my present circumstances. Because trials are an unfortunate part of everyone’s life, I’m confident you have had your share. If you have your own personal insight about how to come to terms with trials, I and whoever else reads this would love to hear them. Please leave a gift of your experience with a comment.