The Chinese thinker Confucius, who lived around 500 BC, once said, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”
The human experience is full of trials, as Job reminds us, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards.” Not only does trouble help perfect our character, as Confucius recognized, but it is controlled by the divine hand. When we realize how the struggles and hardships we face in life benefit us and improve our character, it makes them easier to bear. Peter tells us, “On that day [judgment day] you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while. Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed.” The writer to the Hebrews explains how to endure the trials God sends us. He asks, “And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.”
It is comforting to know that the Lord will not give us a test that we cannot pass. If He sends us trouble, then we can take strength from the knowledge that we are capable of dealing with it, with God’s help. Paul tells us, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Every problem, including those we feel confident we can handle on our own, should be taken to our heavenly Father in prayer, and He will help us. Bringing a consciousness of God into our decision-making not only helps us to avoid missteps such as when Joshua made a covenant with the Gibeonites without consulting God, but brings God’s support to our struggles. As the Psalmist counsels, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
When we are being tested very severely, most of us hope that God will take the problem away or fix it completely. However, the Scriptural guarantee is not that the problem will be removed, but that we will be able to bear it. God never will give us a problem that we cannot cope with. A boss could give us a task that overwhelms us, but our all-knowing Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves and He promises never to do this. The Lord knows all about each of us and it is comforting to know that whatever trial we may face, we have the strength and ability to overcome it with God’s help.
Jesus tells us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” While some of us do not have much hair anymore, we still do not know how many hairs are left — but God does. God knows everything about us. We can trust Him to give us the right trials and to help us through whatever trial we may be facing. Our loving Heavenly Father is trying to prepare us for a future life of immortality in the Kingdom with His son, and our characters need to be perfected by learning from the trials He sends us to overcome. God is giving us lessons, many lessons, and sometimes the lessons need to be repeated. He wants us to be there, so He is carefully grooming us now for that good time that is coming.
We have such a wonderful future to look forward to. We should all be doing what the Lord Jesus Christ himself did when he was enduring the trails that his Father put him through. We have his example to follow as we “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In my personal trials a few years ago, after two major surgeries in one week plus a heart attack, and then a lung collapse due to the mistake of a nurse, while I was lying in the hospital bed, it was a comfort to continually think over the verse, “Though he was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” It helped me to remember that our suffering is nothing in comparison to what the Lord Jesus Christ endured, and if he had to learn obedience by suffering then we should try to learn from what is going on in our lives. These thoughts, plus the realization that God never gives us more than we can bear, helped to pull me through that very trying time.
Let us all then accept the fact that hardship and adversity are needed to help us develop strength of character, and that our lives are in the hand of our Heavenly Father who wants us to be in His kingdom with His dear son. May we focus on the joy set before us and say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Robert J. Lloyd