Trials are inevitable. Don’t believe the lie of a pain-free faith. It’s an allusion many people have conjured up to convince people into accepting difficult things.
Scripture never said that we wouldn’t face suffering. In more places than one, we’re reminded that we’re going to face many afflictions, even as Christians (Psalm 34:19).
Don’t believe me? Just look at Paul! This guy was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, experienced hunger, anxiety and sleepless nights. And these are just a few of the many hardships (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Though it may be hard to believe, all of these things that Paul experienced weren't outside God’s control.
Although they were difficult, it’s through these trials that Paul was shaped into who God wanted him to be. Paul understood that his purpose in life was to know God and bring Him glory. Paul knew firsthand how suffering strengthened his faith and made him completely dependent on God.
Learning to suffer well is crucial for the maturing, authentic believer.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
Throughout the first chapter of James, we see that trials and temptations are not only inescapable but designed to deepen our faith.
Right out the gate, we are reminded to “count it all joy” when we face trials. James isn’t asking us to slap on a smile and fake it. Let’s be real - the actual trial itself is normally not a joyous thing. More often than not, trials are painful and hard.
However, trials produce something in us that triumph cannot.
When our ultimate goal is to glorify God, we can rejoice in trials knowing that they are meant to bring us closer to Him. Atheist turned Christian, Malcolm Muggeridge, describes his life like this,
“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the same time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained.”
It’s through trials that we encounter growth in a way unlike any other. Trials test our faith, show us our frailty, and ultimately, teach us that we can’t rely solely on our own strength.
If your aim in life is to have an easy, carefree existence, trials are likely the last thing on your wish list. If ease is the goal, trials will be met with dread, fear and worry - the complete opposite response of what James is encouraging.
If your goal in life is to know God and bring Him glory, then your eyes will be fixed on Jesus no matter the hardship. Through any difficulty you may experience, you’ll have the strength and ability to walk through it with joy. Trials will produce in you a deeper faith to know, trust and love God.
As James continues in verse 4, it’s through trials that a steadfastness is produced. With the strength that Jesus gives, you can endure through whatever comes your way and know that God is using this trial to make you more like Jesus.
So, when you encounter trials of various kinds, don’t be discouraged. While they might bring difficulty, there is hope. Rejoice, Christian! Through this trial, you’re becoming more and more like Jesus.
By Emily LaGrone