Gives Us a Life Experience
Providing us with important life experiences could be one way God uses our trials to achieve His purposes, as these experiences can edify us or others. I’ll focus on how our experiences with trials can help others since experiences which improve our own lives could be considered a type of discipline, and I’ve already covered that topic.
When we face trials we’re able to live through, we not only gain experiences that are rich with insight but also gain the ability to effectively minister to others going through similar trials. For instance, although it’s best to seek professional help when suffering from depression, talking to a friend who’s also going through it, but has found a way to combat it, will greatly edify you during your struggle (actually, it’s probably best to do this and therapy). This also works the other way: your friend could be just as lost as you, but it makes the struggle easier for you both when you guys realize that you’re not alone in the fight.
Evidently, God used the experience of your friend to achieve His plan of helping you. In the same way, God could use your experience to achieve His plan of helping others: people feel more comfortable seeking help from those who have experienced a similar trial, than those who have not. Also, if you’ve learned from your struggles, you’ll be able to give sound and wise advice on the issue. If not, you’ll both have each other to share the pain, which will make it easier to deal with. So, whether you give advice or fellowship, you are giving love to the person, and this is one of the greatest commandments (Love you neighbor, Matthew 22:39); this act of love will benefit you both, as you “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Just as the student in a higher belt level can offer advice to the lower level student, we could use the experience God has given us to counsel and love those in need. Perhaps we should learn from these trials and be grateful for the opportunities they bring to minister others.
One Trial, Many Reasons
Not all trials are as simple as I’m making them out to be; they’re very complex and God can have many reasons to allow just one trial.
I’ll use a hypothetical example of a man named “Jim” who ruined his marriage from his alcoholism and goes through a trial because of it:
Jim has a drinking problem, and his wife left him because of it. This is a trial caused by his own actions. (Consequence of Sin)
Deciding that he must make a change, Jim goes to an “AA” meeting where he meets Bob, a recovering alcoholic Christian, who later befriends Jim and leads him towards Christ. (Means of Fulfilling God’s Purposes)
A few months later, Jim meets a younger man who has gone through a situation similar to Jim: his wife gave him an ultimatum where she will leave him if he continues his drinking problem. Since Jim has experienced marital issues from drinking, and since he has gotten better at controlling his alcoholism (along with being more mature in his faith in Christ), he is able to mentor the young man using the wisdom he gained from his own failed marriage. (Gives Us a Life Experience)
Even though Jim realizes that his wife may never forgive him and return, he doesn’t stress about it too much, since he depends on God for strength and comfort, and has hope that this situation will help him be more like Christ. (Discipline, which produces Godly Character)
Like with Jim, God can allow us to suffer trials for many reasons, and since we lack His infinite knowledge, it’s not possible for us to know all of them. However, when we realize just how complex our trials can be, this should give us confidence in God’s divine wisdom and Paul’s message inRomans 8:28.
Trials can be extremely painful; those of us who have suffered them know this. However, if you learn from and survive them, they’ll make you stronger. This is why we should view trials as “tests” from God, and not as “punishments”, for we’ll only grow in faith and character when we are challenged. God wants us to be like Him (Matthew 5:48, 2 Corinthians 3:18), and our immortal soul is more important than our temporary comfort, so he allows the pain we receive since. Also, any amount of suffering we experience on Earth is EXTREMELY small compared to the amount of joy we’ll experience in eternity, and this truth should make trials a bit more tolerable.
We must also remember that God can relate to our pain because He sent His Son to Earth as a human, and to be tested in the same way He tests us (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1-13). His Son also had an extremely difficult trial, and the physical pain from it was excruciating (this word means “unbearably painful/extreme agony” and it comes from the Latin “excruciare”, which is “ex” + “cruciare”, meaning “out of the cross”. This etymology shows us that crucifixion was so painful, there needed to be a word invented to describe it.) Along with the emotional/spiritual pain He must have suffered from taking the “sins of the world”, our trials appear simple in comparison; however, God still cares about our troubles, and He’ll help us if we ask (Psalm 22:19, 30:10, 107:6); in other words, we should also depend on His strength when we struggle.
Therefore, we should treat our trials as types of discipline and allow them to mold our character into Christ’s character. We shouldn’t concern ourselves too much on why we suffer (the other reasons I gave for trials can also be treated as discipline, since you grow from any type of trial), but on how we respond to the suffering: with humility and worship of God, and faith that He knows what He’s doing; we should also ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) and learn from the suffering in order to build character. When we adopt this belief that God has given us tests in order to train us for the “belt of life”, instead of just randomly punishing us, we’ll realize that He really loves us and wants us to grow (Hebrews 12:8 says that if we are “left without discipline”, we are “illegitimate children and not sons”). Also, remember that our Master is sovereign with complete control of our lives, including our trials; this should give us faiththat trials are for our edification (Romans 8:28, again).
So, let’s view our trials as “tests” from our Master, which He uses to sanctify (to make Holy or Christ-like) us, and let’s be joyful that He loves us enough to allow them (James 1:2, again).
If we allow these tests to make us stronger, and use this strength to endure until the end, we will achieve the “belt of life”.