Yet the Bible tells us to expect trials and tribulations and to rejoice in them, especially when we choose to follow Christ.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials...” (James 1:2 NASB).
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations...” (Romans 5:3 NASB).
Trials and tribulations don’t generally make us think of joy and exaltation. We know life is hard. Yet the Bible tells us to expect trials and tribulations and to rejoice in them, especially when we choose to follow Christ. Some difficulties include waiting on God’s timing, willingly facing discomfort, performing out of our weaknesses, and experiencing pain.
Scripture also promises that if we persevere, God will give us victory in Christ over life’s challenges.
What are Trials and Tribulations?
Trials and tribulations, which are sometimes used interchangeably, may seem to convey the same meaning. But there is a difference. While the Greek word for tribulation can be defined as “trouble involving direct suffering,” trials may or may not include that unpleasant element. Instead, the Greek word for trials, peirasmos, carries the idea of seeking to learn someone’s character by testing them.
Many of life’s problems test our faith in one way or another.
Victory in Waiting
“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14, NASB).
Waiting is a trial because it tests our faith in God’s promises. Do we believe God enough to pause, rest, and trust in His timing?
It’s excruciating to have something good to look forward to and know it isn’t time for it yet, especially when you don’t know when the ‘when’ will come. In a way, it’s like being a kid, knowing your parents bought you something really special, but not having any idea, or concept of time, for when they’ll give it to you.
The Bible is full of people who had to wait for God to fulfill His promises.
Abraham waited 40 years for a son.
The Israelites waited as slaves in Egypt for 400 years before God set them free.
God’s people waited thousands of years for the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, to come.
Romans 8:19-22 tells us that even creation groans as it waits for Christ to perfect it when He comes again.
God knows waiting can cause our souls to struggle and groan. He doesn’t condemn us for our longings but instead does everything He can to encourage us.
His Holy Spirit helps us wait in faith. (Galatians 5:5)
God promises to be good to those who wait for Him. (Lamentations 3:25)
God increases our strength through the waiting. (Isaiah 40:31)
In each instance of waiting in Scripture, God reaffirmed He had a plan and that His promises would be fulfilled.
This is still true today. You may be waiting for God to bring a good opportunity or relationship. Maybe you’re trusting God to rescue you from a tough situation or to bring justice to evildoers. Regardless of what we’re waiting for, we can rest assured that, although we can’t always understand or see it, God is working in our lives and those around us to bring His promises to pass at the right time.
Victory in Discomfort
Sometimes our walk with God requires us to step into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We may not feel qualified or prepared for the task He sets before us. The new situation may lack the modern conveniences we’re accustomed to. We may face physical discomfort and pain.
These trials reveal our hearts so we can grow and yield to God’s transforming work in our lives. They force us to ask, “Are we willing to do what God has called us to do regardless of how comfortable we feel? Do we love and trust God enough to push through inconveniences and insecurities?”
Countless people throughout the Bible endured new or unusual situations to follow God’s leading:
Abraham obeyed God’s call to leave his familiar home and extended family, everything he knew, to follow this unseen God to an unknown land (Genesis 12).
Rebekah left her family and home to travel with one of God’s servants to a distant land and marry a man she’d never met (Genesis 24).
Moses went from being a prince of Egypt to learning to serve God as a shepherd to accepting God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 2-5).
Ruth the Moabitess refused to return to her family and their gods after her Israelite husband died. Instead, she accompanied Naomi to Israel, saying, “Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”
Ezekiel received a slew of weird and unpleasant tasks to communicate God’s messages to the nations of Israel and Judah. For example, one time, God told him to lie on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days.
Many of the apostles and disciples in the New Testament left family jobs (like fishermen) to become great Christian leaders. They endured being uncomfortable. Paul gave an overview of some of his experiences in Philippians 4:12-13. “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Paul and many others in the Bible learned they could endure and have victory over their discomfort by lifting their eyes beyond the physical to focusing on God and the purpose He set before them.
With God’s Holy Spirit within us, we too can have victory in the unfamiliar situations God calls us to. This may include a new home, job, or volunteer opportunity. It may mean taking on a role we don’t feel qualified for or adapting to different living conditions. But whatever it is, we can be confident that if God has called us to it, He is with us and will help us through whatever we face, to His glory.
Victory in Weakness
There may be times when we feel physically, emotionally, or spiritually weak. But our weakness doesn’t prevent God from working. In fact, it’s during these times that He often demonstrates His greatest strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).
These moments test our faith with the question, “Can we fully trust in God’s strength rather than our own?”
The Bible shows great works of God when He used:
Gideon and 300 Israelites to demonstrate His strength against a large army of Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6-7).
A young man named David to prove to Goliath and two armies of trained warriors that He alone is God and the One who brings victory (1 Samuel 17).
A young slave girl to send Naaman, the Aramean army captain, to be healed by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 5).
In the New Testament, we see instances of Christians spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ even when they were tired and weak from persecution. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, wrote, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (NASB).
When we recognize our weakness and rely on God, we receive supernatural strength that lifts us up to do what needs to be done, knowing the power is not from us but from God. You can compare this to a runner who has given everything before the end of the race but still finds a hidden reserve of energy to sprint hard and finish strong. For us, that “hidden reserve” is God’s strength to do what we cannot do on our own.
Victory in Suffering
Suffering may be emotional, spiritual, or physical. It may be intentionally caused by people or brought about by circumstances beyond our control. But even when the pain seems beyond our ability to bear it, when life seems darkest, God is there.
He comforts us so we can comfort others. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).
Our pain is temporary, and when it comes as a result of following God, we can rest in knowing there are far better things waiting for us in eternity. “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NASB).
The Blessings of Trials
Trials and tribulations are never pleasant to experience, but the Bible tells us they can come with great blessings.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:1-5 NASB).
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-6, NASB).
The hard things in life push us and test our faith and endurance. But when we hold firm to Christ and persevere through the trials, God can bring us to the other side, stronger in our faith and wiser than we were before.
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Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, writer, and member of Wholly Loved Ministries who enjoys studying God’s Word and sharing what she has learned with others. She is the author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, A Princess’ Guide to the Alphabet, and Striving for Unity: a Study on 1 Corinthians (upcoming release). An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny developed a keen interest in language and cultures. In 2007, she graduated from Grace University with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL. For the next seven years, Jenny worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. Her days are now spent raising her three young daughters and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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