Why does God put us through trials?
When you think about it, it defies logic, doesn’t it? Before becoming a Christian and really getting into God’s Word, joy was characterized by things going well. But throughout the Bible, there is an association between joy and trails and difficulty. But how can I be joyful when things around me are falling apart? When my Dad passed in 2012, I can promise you that out of the top 5 feelings I had running through me at the time, joy was down at #453! What was James talking about when he wrote in James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I can tell you that once I became a Christian, I really thought life would become easier. I mean, with God on my side, I felt a bit more bold, feeling as though I could walk through anything and no one would mess with me! But, when tough times came, I began to doubt who God was and why He didn’t stand up for me, or so I thought. How was I supposed to endure horrible circumstances and still consider it joy! As an engineer, I needed to reconcile these feelings… perhaps I needed to find a new definition of joy as it related to my life now and when I was called home…
The NIV of 1 Peter 1:6-9 states “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Was the redefinition I was seeking found here?
In the passages from James and from 1 Peter, the common theme is based on strength… that through trials, we become stronger. James relates the testing of our faith with producing perseverance. 1 Peter relates faith with praising God. All wonderful connections and themes, but they didn’t fully help redefine joy in the context of hardship and uncomfortable circumstances. Perhaps what I was seeking was to differentiate between joy and happiness. As a people, happiness appears to be based on external factors, whereas joy is from God and is in abundant supply. In the midst of grief, sadness, despair, and other losses, God’s joy is ever present and cannot be taken away.
Just like salvation, joy is a perfect gift from God, one that we can choose in the midst of trials, but seems to grow easier to do the closer we become to God and believe in His ways. 2 Corinthians 8 spoke of this joy in the midst of trials… “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” and Hebrews 12:2 speaks… “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The unfortunate reality is that we seem to be more diligent about growing closer to God whenever troubles arise. We just celebrated the anniversary of September 11th… I remember how much God was mentioned in the days following that tragic morning 13 years ago. But did it really take something that tragic to place God back into our conversations? We should really consider this and rethink when and how we want God a part of our lives… I know I do… perhaps it starts with being joyful in all things. And since joy is from God, perhaps we can rest in knowing that through our trials, we don’t stand alone, but have our Lord and Savior, who endured the same trials, with us, always. And as Proverbs 30:5 reminds us, “every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” God is good, gracious, and loving… And that is certainly cause to be joyful, even in the midst of terrible things. We don’t always know the reasons why God allows difficult things to happen. So, pray my brothers and sisters that we grow in faith to believe that God is really who He says He is; now and always!
Greg Stefanelli (gstefanelli)