Another thing to ponder is that trials and suffering aren’t always just about me.
Many people think trials and suffering come as punishment for bad behavior. Our human response to our own hardships is often “why me?” And our response to others’ hardships, cravenly, is too often “He probably deserved it.”
But are trials and suffering and hardship really a punishment for bad behavior? Well, sometimes, yes. Scripture says that God does punish the wicked, and it also says that He disciplines His own that they may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:7-10).
James said “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Joy?? You must be joking! Why? “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) So trials also come for the purpose of testing and strengthening our faith.
But sometimes trials and problems are also for God’s glory. Jesus healed a man born blind (John 9). People asked Jesus whether it was the man or his parents who had sinned resulting in the man being born blind. Jesus answered neither, but that this had happened so that God’s work would be revealed in the man’s life. What was God’s work? That a man born blind was healed – people said that never had anyone heard of a man born blind being healed. A sign that Jesus was indeed sent from God.
And sometimes trials aren’t about us at all. Many times our trials and sufferings have profound effects on other people. As I interacted with other friends and acquaintances of my friend who just died, I could see that his life and death have also impacted them in various ways.
Look at Job. Satan came to God asking permission to test Job. He was sure that Job would curse God and die when all his blessings and protection was taken away. But God knew that wasn’t so. He gave permission for Satan to test and try Job.
Job’s “friends” assumed that Job must have done something wrong to deserve such a heap of troubles. Job himself asked why, he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong, and didn’t understand why he was so afflicted. He moaned and groaned and wished himself dead, yet he also declared that “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). He still trusted God even though he didn’t understand why he was undergoing such trials:
“But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
Job’s trials weren’t really about him at all. They were primarily for our benefit. His trials and trust and God’s reply were recorded for all succeeding generations to see, that we too might understand that God is sovereign. He knows things we don’t know. Even when we don’t understand, even when we don’t see where He is at work, we can still trust Him to work all things for good and for His purposes.
So yes, knowing Who He is and that He is absolutely trustworthy and absolutely able to do whatever He purposes, we can indeed consider it pure joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that there is
purpose in them especially when we continue to trust in Him.