Have you ever met someone whose life seems perfect? Her marriage appears strong and loving, she’s always winning a contest or drawing, her children excel in everything, and she rarely has to deal with the “serious” problems in life – disease, life-altering injuries, or financial disasters? I have. Sometimes picture-perfect lives are illusions. Other times, those lives really do seem to experience a great deal of fortune.
But what happens when someone who is not used to disappointments experiences a let-down? They tend to crumble. Fall apart. Stress out. Why? Perhaps it’s because they have not (yet) been given the opportunity to produce steadfastness by the trials life often hands us.
James writes, “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).
Trials have a purpose. First, they test our faith. God wants to know we serve Him not just when things are going well, but when life is difficult. When the rich, young ruler learned what he must do to follow Christ, he turned away. To this young man, Jesus asked too much of him. We must be willing to give up everything in order to serve God. That means we will remain faithful to God and refuse to escape into sin when trials come our way.
As we endure each trial, the next one becomes a little easier to work though. We continue to build our faith and patience (or steadfastness) as we take one step after the other in God’s service. James says that the “full effect” of our steadfastness is completeness (in our character). As my dad used to tell me, life’s trials “build character.”
Trials serve another purpose. Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4). Not only does God comfort us during our trials, we can pass this comfort along to others when they face difficulties. How do we do that? Since my breast cancer diagnosis almost 15 years ago, I have had the opportunity to offer encouragement and comfort to other women facing the same disease. When a brother or sister faces a trial similar to one we have experienced, we can say, “I’ve been there. I survived, and so can you!”
Paul also points out in 2 Corinthians 1:9 that trials are designed to help us rely on God. When we hit bottom and require Someone greater than ourselves to lift us up, God is waiting for us to grab His hand.
There are several steps we can take when facing trials to help us successfully endure.
1. Remember to do the right thing. Often when we face trials, we also face temptations. Sinful options may be very appealing when we are in survival mode.
2. Remember the reward. James says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (1:12). There is nothing in this life worth having if it means giving up eternal life with God.
3. Remember that others have endured. You may feel alone in your struggle and that no one else has ever hurt as much as you do. But Scriptures are filled with examples of men and women who faithfully walked with God during their darkest moments.
4. Lean on your brothers and sisters-in-Christ. The Hebrew writer tells us to exhort and encourage one another to help prevent us from falling away from God. Trials may present a faith challenge, and we need encouragement to help us continue down the straight and narrow.