Are there some intruders in your life—unwelcome hardships that have broken into your life and are now causing problems for you? The way you define those hardships can make a night and day difference in how much joy you have today—and whether those hardships accomplish their purpose in your life or not. How would you define the word “hardship” or “trial”?
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, author’s translation).
Sent to Change You
The first command in James is to consider trials pure joy. The second is to let perseverance do its work. If the only ways out of the furnace are sin, stay in the furnace. Stay there until God provides a way out that does not involve anger, self-pity, bailing out on responsibilities, complaining, or any other sinful response.
The fact that perseverance has work to finish implies trials are not just hardships. They are hardships designed to change you. Every difficulty in your life is a good thing sent by God to change you.
We are always being molded and shaped by the Potter’s hand. Or to use the language of Hebrews 12, God is training us. Nobody trains to be the same. Training is for changing. If you want to go from being weak to being strong, you get a physical trainer and go through the workout regimen. If you want to go from being unskilled at a job to mastery, you go through the training. Training is for growth and change.
That simple principle can revolutionize the way you interpret your trials. After a terrible night’s sleep, instead of just thinking about how tired you’re going to be all day, think, “God, let that happen to change me. He wants my character to be more like Jesus today than it was yesterday, so he kept me from getting rest last night.”
You get a nasty email and think, “This happened because God wants me to change from the old me with weak, wobbly faith, selfishness, pride, self-confidence, and bad attitudes, to a new me who can respond to something like that with humility, love, and trust in God.
The email really came from God. (And when you hit reply, God will be copied on your response.)
With every unpleasant thing that happens, pray, “God, let this train me. This dinner that I was looking forward to turned out to be a disappointment, let it change me. Thank you for sending this trial. Let it do its job in me.”
Nothing is more valuable than strong faith. And nothing is more damaging than weak, patchy, intermittent faith. But we all have faith that is weak, patchy, and intermittent at times. Our faith is like a piece of gold full of all kinds of impurities and contaminations. And there is one solution. It must be refined. And only fire can refine gold.
Some of those impurities are fool’s gold. They look just like real faith. And not even in your most honest moments can you discern whether it is real faith or fool’s gold. The only way to discover the dross is to get into the furnace and see what melts and what emerges as pure gold.
“When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
When was the last time you complained (out loud or in your own mind)? What were you trying to accomplish? To gain sympathy from someone? To express anger? Just pure habit? Do you feel you gained anything by complaining?
Now imagine how it would have been different had you been thankful instead. Thankful for the countless blessings God has lavished on you, and, yes, thankful for the trial itself because it was a good thing sent by God to change you and refine your faith.
Is there a trial you’re suffering right now? Say it to yourself, out loud if need be: “This is a good thing, sent by God to change me.”
Then give some thought to how it shoIs there a trial you’re suffering right now? Say it to yourself, out loud if need be: “This is a good thing, senIs there a trial you’re suffering right now? Say it to yourself, out loud if need be: “This is a good thing, sent by God to change me.”t by God to change me.”uld change you and thank God for sending it.