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It has been said that you are either going through a trial, have just finished going through a trial, or are about to go through a trial. Trials are a part of life, and we are surrounded by them. I’d like to share 7 lessons that trials have taught me recently.
- Trials teach us how to be more humble
Boasting is the default mode of our hearts. We often boast of our plans about the future or tomorrow, but we do not know what tomorrow holds. Planning is not bad, in fact, Jesus recommended it! (see Luke 14:28-32), but it is planning with an arrogant heart, with many unfounded assumptions, that is dangerous.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow ill bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
It is humbling to realize that you are not in control of the universe or of many things (most or all things?) in your own life. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). Thus, trials are humbling and teach us humility.
- Trials teach us to be grateful for what we have
By nature, we take everything for granted. We take our relationships for granted, we take our good health for granted, we take our jobs for granted, we take our vehicles for granted, we take our homes for granted, and everything else that falls under the category of “everything.” We often complain about the items, circumstances, and relationships that we do not have, and then we turn around and complain about the good items, good circumstances, and the good relationships that we do have. We are a people who murmur often. Trials, however, often involve a loss of some sort. This could be the loss of a relationship through death or through a breakup, or it could be the loss of material possessions through some natural or financial disaster. A loss is typically bound together with trials and it is dealing with the pain of loss that makes it a “trial.” While trials have taught me to grieve, they’ve also taught me to be grateful for what I haven’t lost and for what is currently in my possession. Trials tend to make what I have not lost, sweeter. Time with my loved ones and time doing simple activities are sweeter in the midst of a trial because I am reminded that I may not have my loved one tomorrow, or that I may not be able to do that simple activity such as walking, therefore, thankfulness can be cultivated through hardship.
- Trials teach us what sinful fools we are
The sinfulness I am talking about is not the grieving through the trials, for that is quite normal. The sinfulness I am speaking of here has to do with the condition of our hearts while in the midst of a trial. Oftentimes we can become quite bitter and resentful over the situation or the relationship that is no longer there. This bitterness is sinful and is harmful to us and to those around us. Just as if you were to squeeze a grape the insides of the grape would emerge, so a trial, similarly, “squeezes” us and all types and varieties of sin can begin to emerge from our hearts. It is good for us to see our sin for it reminds us that we are still in need of our Savior. Sure, we may be Christians, but maybe we have grown complacent when thinking upon, or when singing about, the grace of God. Trials can open up our hearts like nothing else and will show us our great need of the grace of God. This will cause us to draw closer to God and cling to the cross all the more.
- Trials teach us that everything in life has a season to it
Everything in our lives has a season to it. Some situations within our lives are in the spring, and it’s a new endeavor, and we are excited about it. Other situations within our lives are in the summertime and we are cultivating the seeds that have been planting and we are beginning to see them grow. There are some situations within our lives that are in the fall season when the harvest is usually reaped and we are enjoying the fruit of our labor. And there are other situations within our lives that are in the winter season and is dying. Unless we realize that everything within our lives goes through a season, we will be utterly devastated when trials come our way. Marriage ends at death, thus the line, “’till death do we part.” High school (hopefully!!) ends at some point and college, or full-time work will begin. Friendships in middle school will not be the same when you are 32 with 3 kids and living in a different state. Most situations and circumstances are not meant to be the same forever and will always be changing depending upon the season. Since trials are usually associated with loss, or at the very least, a change of some sort, we are taught that seasons are a natural and normal part of life and we must be able to discern what season our particular circumstances are in. We can better survive trials realizing that seasons are normal and natural.
I’ve recently been reading about these “seasons” of life in a book I highly recommend to you called “Necessary Endings” by Henry Cloud. This book will help you to accept the fact of “seasons” in your life and will help you to discern when it is time to transition to a different season, or when to bring about an “ending” to a particular situation in your life.
- Trials teach us for new seasons to begin, other seasons have to end
For those that prune rose bushes, they say that if a rose bush, for example, has 15 buds that could become beautiful roses, they will cut out 10 good buds to allow the other 5 remaining buds to fully grow and blossom. Often there are good elements in our lives that must be, painfully, cut out of our lives to make room for a few good elements to “blossom.” Many of our lives are so crammed with so many different activities and situations that all of our energy is being spread too thin, thus we are unable to focus on a few activities or priorities that can produce the best results in our lives. Trials teach us to let go of good situations and to lay hold of better situations. In order for springtime to come, winter must come.
- Trials teach us to appreciate the hope of heaven
Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is quite clear that He is the only way to God. We must go through Him to get to the Father. Once we die, if we are in Christ, then we will live forever in a world where there is a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more pain, sorrow, grief or death (see Revelation 21:1-4). Pain causes us to look up to God and to look forward to a day when there will be no more pain. Our desire for heaven grows greater the more pain we experience on earth. This is our great hope that is purchased by Christ on the cross and that great hope becomes more tangible to us as we walk through trials in this life.
- Trials teach us to appreciate what Jesus has done for us on the cross
Not always, but often within trials, even the ones that are beyond our control, there can be a sense of failure or guilt related to the trial. For example, maybe we could have handled a situation in a little better, and now we feel responsible for the sin, even if slight. Or someone could lose a mother or a father, yet there was “break” in the relationship years ago, and it was never mended. Guilt and failure can begin to set in. Where do we find relief from our sin? Where can guilt be properly handled? These are handled at the cross of Christ. There is forgiveness and grace in abundance and unspeakable. Our sins are great, but Christ’s grace is greater. We are unfaithful, yet He remains faithful to us, to those who have trusted in His finished work on the cross. It is in light of failure and guilt, resulting from trials, that we are taught to appreciate Jesus and cling to His work all the more.
YOUR TURN! (I’d love to hear from you in the “Comment” section below!)
- What are some lessons you have learned while going through trials?