Thursday, February 28, 2008

What We Can Do in Our Trials

We all have to endure suffering and trials in this world – it’s a part of life. We have natural disasters, man-made disasters, personal life events (such as sickness and death), plus suffering the consequences of our own wrong actions. Aside from the last item, these are regrettable natural occurrences, which are not the result of God’s wrath or God’s lack of caring.

Given that we will all suffer in some way, we should trust that God will help us and make some good come out of it. Blessings can come from suffering. By our response to our ordeals, God can turn a disaster into a blessing, and an opportunity for us to glorify God in our actions.

1. Standing on the Promises

One way we can react to problems in life is to trust in the promises of God – in other words, “Standing on the Promises.” For example, the Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 (NRSV):

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

Jesus assures us in John 16:33 (NRSV): “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Standing on the promises will help to get us through the tough times, as we are assured in that great hymn of the same name:
Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of God.

2. Lean on God

Once you are standing on the promises, you put that faith into action by leaning on God. By leaning on God, we aren’t allowing the toxic emotions of anxiety and worry to overwhelm us, but are turning our fears over to God. It says to lean on God in 1 Peter 5:7 (NRSV): “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” Paul advises us in Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” Another promise is found in Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV

Let’s keep in mind the words of another great old hymn:
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace, with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

3. Make the Most of It

Third, when suffering and grief come our way, we should commit to trust God to make the most of an unfortunate situation. We do this by yielding to him, and allowing God to make good to come out of our ordeal by not being bitter or resentful. The results of that will be blessings, such as deepening our faith and trust in God, learning from what we are going through, and building up our character. We read about some of the benefits of suffering in Romans 5:3b-5 (NRSV):

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This promise that God will make some good come out of out suffering comes from that familiar passage in Romans 8:28, 32:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them…
Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

This isn’t just wishful thinking – it’s a promise from God, found all over the Bible. I’ve read countless articles in Guideposts, Reader’s Digest, daily devotionals, and books, about how God used people’s suffering to accomplish good and blessings. If he’s done it for these other persons, he’ll certainly do it for you and me.

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