“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12 ESV)
Trials stink. Running out of money stinks. Suffering from chronic migraines stink. Being slandered by coworkers stinks. All trials stink, right?
Well, yes and no. From a human perspective, trials are painful and sad. But from God’s perspective, trials are sad, but also wonderfully productive. In James 1:2-4 it says:
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.
Humanly speaking, this is crazy talk. Count it all joy whenever I meet a trial? James sounds like some sort of sadistic masochist who loves pain. Like those guys who lie on beds of nails, or swallow glass, or watch made-for-TV movies on the Hallmark Channel. Insane. Perhaps a bit unstable. In need of psychiatric help.
But James sees things from God’s perspective. He knows that God uses trials to produce steadfast faith in us. Steadfast faith is faith that isn’t easily shaken. Steadfast faith is faith that holds fast to God even when it is buffeted and beaten. Steadfast faith says, “Blessed be your name,” on the road marked with blessing and the road marked with suffering. If we’re going to make it to the end, we need steadfast faith.
But steadfast faith doesn’t just happen. It’s not like you can take a blue steadfast pill and suddenly be a faith ninja. Steadfast, unshakeable faith only comes through the pressure of trials. Trials press us in to God. They force us to lean on God, and trust him when we can’t see the outcome. They knock our legs out from underneath us so that we’ll cling to God.
God never wastes our suffering. He doesn’t play games with our suffering. Every trial has a divine purpose behind it. We can rejoice in our trials, and even count them all joy because we know that God is producing steadfast faith in us.
Rejoice in your trials. Count them all joy. Wait patiently in the midst of them. God is at work, even if you can’t see it.