We all go through times of trial! Some even seem to go through more than others – why is that? I don’t know the answer, but I sure do admire those who face their trials and struggles with grace and confidence that God is with them despite their lot. I really admire them!
As you may know, I’ve recently had to have a heart pacemaker inserted to fix my long term atrial fibrillation (AF) issue. I’ve had four previous surgical procedures for AF, but they’ve not proved successful. You can imagine that I had high hopes my pacemaker would fix me? It hasn’t yet… I need to undergo another ablation in about six weeks time. I have been assured by my cardiologist that this will fix me.
Experiencing trials teaches us many things. One of those is empathy with those who go through tough times – whether health, emotional or relational in nature. One of our elders empathised with me when he heard I was to undergo further surgery by sending me the following meditation by John Piper. When I read it, I was encouraged and strengthened!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2–3)
Strange as it may seem, one of the primary purposes of being shaken by suffering is to make our faith more unshakable.
Faith is like muscle tissue: if you stress it to the limit, it gets stronger, not weaker. That’s what James means here. When your faith is threatened and tested and stretched to the breaking point, the result is greater capacity to endure.
God loves faith so much that he will test it to the breaking point so as to keep it pure and strong. For example, he did this to Paul according to 2 Corinthians 1:8–9,We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not in ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
The words “but that was to” show that there was a purpose in this extreme suffer-ing: it was in order that Paul would not rely on himself and his resources, but on God — specifically the future grace of God in raising the dead.
God so values our wholehearted faith that he will, graciously, take away every-thing else in the world that we might be tempted to rely on — even life itself. His aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence that he himself will be all we need.
He wants us to be able to say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26).
The most comforting reality for me is knowing that Jesus, by the Holy Spirit is with me! Think about that? When we go through trials, Jesus is with us.
Later on today, ponder the following Scriptures: Joshua 1:5; Psalm 73:23-26; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6.