Tag Archives: suffering

As Sparks Fly Upward

Job captures the human condition when he says: “Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). Painful and stressful situations are inevitable, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. They crouch behind corners and pounce when we least expect it. It is often believed that these circumstances are plagues from God and are not part of His plan. (I know that’s how I feel sometimes.) The reality, however, is that God has ordained difficult, stressful, painful situations – trials – as a means of transforming people into His image. As we recognize trials as God’s instrument, we can find joy in the midst of our trials and respond rightly to them.

Mental Response to Trials

It was Chuck Swindoll who said, “show me a man or woman who’s never endured suffering, and I’ll show you a spiritual wimp.” There is some truth to that statement. Trials and suffering produce spiritual maturity. It says in James 1:2: “Count it all joy when you experience trials of various kinds.” The verb “count” in Greek is noteworthy suggesting something done with your mind. The way it’s written suggests that one should dwell on the given situation and come to the conclusion that “This is good for me.” Not because the situation itself is good, (let’s be honest, trials hurt), but because of what you learn, and what it produces in your life, which is spiritual maturity.

Trials Come in Many Colors

As a child, I used to think of trials as the big problems and situations of life e.g. Abraham having to offer Isaac. However, the Greek word poikilois, translated asvarious in James 1:2 – “when you encounter various trials” – has the meaning “many colors.” When James uses it, he conveys that trials come in different colors. We can experience testing with finances, family, work, friendship, rebellious children, classes, etc.

Trials Reveal Our Condition

 Recently, I got a mundane job that pays close to minimum wage working in a freezer. I definitely believe that it’s a trial from God! This job is making me work on my pride and is helping me to realize what’s important in life. I’ll admit that when I signed up for it, there wasn’t an ounce of joy. I was embarrassed and I wanted to buy a mask to hide my face. However, I’m realizing that working at this job will produce spiritual maturity.

 The trials of our lives reveal our human condition. They show the areas of our life that haven’t conformed to the image of God. I didn’t understand I had a problem with pride until I faced my trial. Then I realized I am a prideful person, and that I need to change. I didn’t enjoy this realization, but now I can work on my pride. When you face trials it reveals your sinful areas and then by the power of the Holy Spirit you can change.

The Place of Wisdom

 What is a Christian’s response to trials? It’s true that we ask God for deliverance, but what James suggests is to pray for wisdom. People use this verse for almost anything: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5). However, the context of James chapter 1 is trials. When we find ourselves in a trial we pray to God for wisdom in dealing with it. “Lord, what do I do about this situation?” Wisdom is vital in responding to our various trials. We also pray to God for understanding in what we can learn from our testing. Even in the worst of trials, there is a nugget of wisdom to be taken from it, and we pray to God for it.

Hope is Key

 Hope provides the necessary endurance to overcome trials. It says in Romans 5:3 “Tribulation works patience.” If you think about it, often tribulation does just the opposite. I know people in whom tribulation has worked bitterness and hatred. Why then does the Apostle Paul say, “it works patience”? This statement is found in the context of hope. When you have hope you can endure the most agonizing trials imaginable. Our hope in trials is the knowledge, that in the end, it’s shaping us in the image of our Savior.

 As long as sparks fly upward, you will experience all sorts of trials and testings. It’s not fun or enjoyable in any way, but when we recognize what God is doing through it, we can embrace our trials wholeheartedly. For we know that as we endure it, we are becoming spiritual men and women of God.

Perpetual Encouragement

As we go through life, we will experience all sorts of scrapes and bruises, heartbreaks and dashed hopes. The question is not, “Will suffering happen?” but rather “When?” and “How will we respond to it?” When we are thrown into challenging situations, our view is often narrow-minded. All we see is the problem that is ahead of us. This is why we feel discontentment and at times even anger about our circumstances. Moreover, when there is no meaning or purpose for our suffering, the heartache and pain is compounded. It is only those that have an anchor in Christ that can find lasting joy amidst ongoing suffering.

Our perspective determines how we respond to the difficult situations of life. For those who are in Christ, there is a perspective that enables one to look at life with joy, despite all the scrapes and bruises. It comes by viewing life in light of eternity and seeing God’s purpose and plan for His people.

God Works for Good

When we are in Christ, we know that God works all things together for good, for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  It is not that all things are good, but that in them God is at work for good. Calvin said it well: “Whatever poisons this world might create; God uses it as medicine for His elect.” No matter what situations we are in, as Christians we take comfort in saying, “God will use this for my good and His glory”:

“When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

The Enemy’s Goal

I enjoyed the perspective of Amy Carmichael when she said:

Everywhere the perpetual endeavor of the enemy of souls is discouragement. If he can get the soul “under the weather,” he wins. It is not really what we go through that matters, it is what we go under that breaks us. We can bear anything if only we are kept inwardly victorious. … If God can make His birds to whistle in drenched and stormy darkness, if He can make His butterflies able to bear up under rain, what can He not do for the heart that trusts Him?

The Future is Secure

The Lord loves His children and their future is secure in His hands. It may seem like an obvious statement but it is worth mentioning: God knows the future… He knows what will be and He is in control of it. In any given situation, we do not know how things will turn out in ten to fifteen years. But God knows, and He has a plan that will bring Him glory and His children joy. The ultimate goal in the Christian life is not success as the world defines it; rather it is becoming more like Christ. At the end of the day, what matters is not all the money, power and sex, but rather looking more like Christ. He called us before the foundations of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4).

We Don’t Know Why

It is true that the question “Why is this happening to me?” is never fully known. We can paint the general picture but we don’t know the “Why” of a particular situation, and the truth is that we may never pinpoint exactly why we suffer and why things fall apart. It is interesting that history can tell us what happened, science can tell us how it happens (sometimes), but no one can tell us why it happens (Haddon Robinson). God doesn’t promise answers… What He does though is give us Himself. The Christian life is impossible without the Spirit of God. Do you not know that you are a temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

An Unforeseen Opportunity

There was a humorous story not too long ago about an 80-year-old woman, Margaret Geary that made headline news. Her sisters had gone out to a Bible conference for four days and she had to stay behind to watch the home. After they left, she went to the kitchen to get a snack, a jar of water with celery sticks, and went upstairs using an elevator. As she was going up, the power went out trapping her inside. She quickly reached for her cell phone, but there was no cell reception… Then she tried to pry the door open, but it wouldn’t budge. Stuck with nowhere to go she said, “Either I can pray or panic. And it seems that I’m going to have a four-day prayer retreat, and I didn’t have to reserve the space.” So she prayed, ate celery, prayed, ate celery, for four days! When her sisters finally came back, they asked her what it was like. She responded, “Well, I finally realized that God provided me an opportunity to draw near to Him.”

It is possible that you may feel trapped in an elevator, you are banging on the doors screaming at the top of your lungs, and your cell phone doesn’t have reception. All you want is an immediate rescue… However, if you would view your situation in light of God’s Word, you will see that this hard and difficult situation is an opportunity to draw near to Him.

When You Have Christ

When we have Christ, we are able to trust what we can’t trace, step where we do not see, and undergo that which we may never understand (Haddon Robinson). Despite what the world may say, God does not owe us anything. If you are in Christ you are more blessed than you can ever imagine.

“So near, so very near to God, I cannot nearer be. For in the person of His Son, I am as near as He. So dear, so very dear to God, I cannot dearer be. The love with which He loves His son – such is His love for me [and for you]”

You have been adopted into God’s family and are loved infinitely by Him. He is working out everything for your good and His glory. The sufferings of this life, as hard as they might be, are nicks and bumps in light of eternity.