Are you worn out from a revolving door of trials? After a very rough year for all of us, and a rocky start to 2021, God laid it on my heart to talk about how to deal with trials when it feels like they just keep coming. Let’s take a look at how we can, not just survive trials in life, but bear fruit from them from a Biblical perspective. I hope this can be an encouragement to you that your trials don’t have to be fruitless.
God is testing me
Over the last three years, Aaron and I have faced a specific trial multiple times in multiple ways. It recently got to the point where I had that aha moment and realized, “God is testing me.”
Maybe it is a test. Maybe it is something I haven’t learned yet from past experiences. Or, maybe it is preparation for something to come.
Have you ever wondered, is God testing me? And if so, why? I wish I could say I had the answer for that always elusive question: why.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is God testing me? Why did He allow this to happen? These are the basic cries of our heart when we face trials in life that seem unfair, unwarranted and unjust.
But I don’t have that answer.
No human does.
All I have is faith.
Faith that is supported by virtue, followed by Biblical knowledge, which leads to Spirit enabled self-control, which produces steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and finally, love.
So let’s talk about what we can learn from trials in life as we walk through them, rather than how to just survive them.
What to learn from trials in life.
One thing in life is guaranteed, you will have trials. There are so many Bible verses about tests, and scripture on struggle, that it should be no surprise when we face them ourselves.
This is one of the most profound life lessons from the Bible, yet we treat it like it is a surprise every time. We are shocked when we face difficulty. We spiral into despair and question everything. We are never ready for it. And perhaps that is the overarching problem.
We have neglected to prepare.
Let’s take a look at what we already know about life and how trials impact us from Biblical examples.
Does faith in God eliminate trials?
Most non-believers assume that Christians propose that a believing faith equates to a worry-free life. Prosperity gospels tout that if you do XYZ for the Lord, you will live the good life. My friends, do not be deceived.
Faith in God does not eliminate trials. It carries us through them.
Our humanness will never understand the seemingly unjust trials we experience simply because we have faith. We won’t be able to find joy in suffering on our own. We need the Holy Spirit for that. We need His power and strength to live in us and exude Christ-like joy.
Right after Jesus tells his disciples that they will have tribulation, he prays one of the most powerful prayers of love over His followers.
There are so many points of Jesus’s prayer that are aha moments. When you break them down into individual statements, they pack a punch. But when you realize that they are all meant to work together, they help us see how to walk through a trial that Jesus already knew we would be enduring.
- “Holy Father, keep them in your name.”
- “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost”
- “These things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves”
- “I have given them your word”
- “The world has hated them because they are not of the world”
- “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one”
- “Sanctify them in your truth”
- “I have sent them into the world”
Do you see the true story of the journey laid out for us in advance?
Processing Jesus’s Prayer
First, we are kept in His name and guarded by Jesus. You are guarded. Already, right now, by believing in Christ as Savior, you are guarded and kept in His name. Before you even knew you were going to face whatever trials in life you’ve endured, you were guarded and kept.
But what are you guarded from? Not from the trial, clearly. Because if that were so, you wouldn’t be experiencing it. No, Jesus didn’t intend to guard us from difficulty, but rather, He guards us from being lost. Lost to evil, lost to temptation, lost to eternity.
But since He knew we would need to be guarded from this, He spoke into the world to give us His joy through the Word. Not joy through a trial or experience, but joy through the Word. Joy in the Spirit.
In past musings I talked about the difference between joy and happiness. You see, happiness is an emotion. It is fleeting and circumstantial. Joy is not.
Joy is a decision, powered by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us. It is not of human capability, but through inviting Jesus into the midst of our trial and letting Him lead us through it. Joy is also produced through answered prayer. We simply need to be watchful for those answers as we diligently seek Him in prayer through our trial.
And then, the part of the prayer comes where Jesus says that the world will hate us. I’ve certainly experienced this as a Christian many times. And while we may not like it, Jesus clearly wants us here. “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
His prayer isn’t for us to escape trials in life, but that we are kept firm in the faith, sanctified in truth, and sent into the world to accomplish His purpose for our lives.
Did you know that you have a purpose? Ask God what it is if you don’t know and listen for Him to tell you.
Where to get power to get through trials in life
Once we realize that we were meant to endure and overcome trials, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the question becomes, “What am I going to do with this knowledge?”
At at time when I was doing a lot of questioning and enduring many trials, my cousin spoke these words below over me. They still impact me years later and the visual picture I get has been so helpful when I am at a loss for how to power through a trial. Most of the time, it’s because I’m trying to power through in my own strength rather than seeking God. I hope they can be an encouragement to you as well.
I was taken aback by her analogy because it so beautifully captures an image of how important it is to be locked into God. Can you picture it? This huge wall with a magnificently orchestrated arrangement of cogs, all next to one another, with the power source at its center, just waiting to be locked into each other so that His power can impact first one small cog and then every other one in return.
This is a whole new meaning to “powering through trials.” Because we are no longer powering through in our own strength, but in His.
With His power, we can overcome trial and impact others for His purpose along the way. Our trials do not have to be fruitless suffering.
Using trials in life to bear fruit
And this leads me to my final point. We can learn, we can grow, we can change, and we can impact others for Christ through trials in life. Our trials can bear fruit, lead to good, lead to growth and lead to change. They don’t have to only ever be negative suffering.
God’s conception of what it means to love us is likely to be different from our preconception of what it means to be loved. It is sobering to consider that God may want us to have more than we think we desire, and that we will have to experience more than happiness to receive it.― James Castleton, MD, Mending of a Broken Heart
This quote is in dramatic opposition to our culture. Our culture wants everything to be easy, happy, and carefree. But what if that is actually cheating us out of what God wants for us? What if our trials in life are actually necessary to fulfill God’s purpose for us?
What if you were meant to experience a trial so that you can:
- Learn compassion
- Gain knowledge
- Understand true joy
- Show love to others
- Grow in self-control
- Put away selfish pride
- Become gentle
- Encounter true peace
- Value human life
We have the ability to choose the fruit we bear from a trial. We can choose to look inward towards self-pity or we can choose to look outward to spiritual growth or helping others.
What Type of Fruit Do you Choose?
Think about the trial you are in right now. How do you approach it?
When you say, “Lord please give me strength,” what are you asking for?
Strength to endure? Strength to end it? Strength to change? Strength to do His will when it seems insurmountable?
We have two types of fruit to chose from as we journey through a trial: fruits of the flesh or fruits of the spirit.
Fruits of the Flesh
- Sexual immorality
- Selfish Ambition
Fruits of the Spirit
My guess is, from these lists you already see what kind of fruit you are currently bearing, and what kind of fruit you want to bear. Now it’s up to you, by pressing into the Holy Spirit, to change your mindset towards your trial.
Changing our Mindset Towards Trials
In 2 Peter, Peter starts out his letter to fellow believers who have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”. So from here on out, that’s who I’m talking to. This is for fellow believers who know Christ as Savior and are willing to tap into His Spirit for everyday strength. Because, my friends, that’s where the ability to learn from trails in life comes from.
This passage has been one I’ve dwelt on a lot after yet another of the same trial came my way recently. I saw it in a new light. As Peter implores his fellow believers to do these things, he states that they “keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful.”
These character traits are the result of intentionally seeking God daily, so that.
So that, we can be effective.
So that, we can be fruitful.
So that, we can have knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So that, we are not nearsighted and blind towards our brothers and sisters.
So that, we do not forget what our calling is.
It’s all right there. None of these words are my own. 2 Peter 1 lays the building blocks for our fruitful production within this world. Aka: within daily trial.
Building Blocks Towards Bearing Fruit in Trial
For the longest time I read the below passage in, what I now believe to be, an incorrect mindset.
These character traits are not independent of one another. You don’t get steadfastness independent of knowledge. You don’t receive godliness without self-control.
However, they are also not linear.
The thought that one leads to the next eliminates the need for them all. With this perspective, once you’ve “reached” self-control, you could conceivably forget faith, virtue and knowledge without repercussion for forward growth.
Instead, I’ve come to view this passage as a staircase. Building blocks, if you will.
The Bible says that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). So it makes sense that we should start with faith. But as you climb each step you are growing in that faith and climbing to something new, with the goal of reaching love. Because faith, hope and love last forever but, “the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
Now, the difference between this illustration and the linear model is that you cannot take those beginning steps away and still proceed upward.
As soon as you stumble on one, the upward climb tumbles. If you falter when it comes to steadfastness, then you must go back to reconfirm your faith, virtue, knowledge and self-control. Re-establish those character traits and right the ship and you’ll be able to actualize steadfastness and proceed the climb.
I think you’ll agree that it’s very difficult to have love without all of the things that lead up to it. How can we have godliness without faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control and steadfastness?
And, how can we show brotherly love to people who unjustly impact us without godliness? Can we be loving without self-control and affection working hand-in-hand?
No. And so we must make every effort to supplement. Supplement our thoughts and actions while in a trial with:
- Brotherly love
Until you reach Love. It is then that we can separate ourselves and our own hurts, fears and anxiety from the trials in life to produce Spirit filled fruit. And ultimately, grow as followers of Christ and help others with similar trials in the future.
Will it be easy? Absolutely not. Will we stumble? Yes. Will it always be an uphill climb? Most likely.
But with faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.
I hope that this encourages you today. I’ve found great comfort in the passage in 2 Peter and put together four printable versions for you if you’d like to display it as a reminder. Simply sign up below to receive your free printables and gain access to my free printable library with all my graphics without watermarks.
You can also check out all of my Monday Musings of Grace for more faith-based encouragement. And follow along with me daily on Instagram for daily Bible verses and lots of DIY and styling adventures.
Be blessed my friends,