God’s kindness comes in many forms. A faithful Christian knows how to see the power and beauty of God that stirs the soul to authentic worship in even the smallest of life’s blessings. Not to be overly sappy, but consider a few examples. A cardinal landing on a branch that causes you to pause and admire its beauty. A book that captures your imagination that you just can’t put down. A new connection with an old friend. An unexpected rest in the midst of a overly busy season. True Christian worship knows God intimately and is constantly aware of the blessing of His fatherly presence in all the details of life.
Yet, true Christian worship is not only found in the outwardly seeming blessings of life. The same God that doles out grace in abundance is the very same God that often leads His beloved through fiery trials that test and purify the soul.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:6–7
I cannot help but notice the strange contrast found in that first sentence, “In this you rejoice” and “you have been grieved by various trials.” The citizens of God’s kingdom have discovered the secret of rejoicing in the midst of grief and trial. This “rejoicing” described by Peter is not the face of the Stoic philosopher who forces himself to avoid falling prey to real emotional responses by burying his true feelings behind a stern outward veneer. it is also not the calm meditative response of the Buddhist who has committed his life to detaching himself from every earthly element. No, you will not find classic Stoicism or Buddhism consistent with Christianity. Christianity does not insist on burying ones lived emotions or detaching oneself from this world. Remember it was our savior Jesus Christ who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35) and who wailed over Jerusalem’s failure to recognize their own messiah (Luke 19:41).
Rather, Christianity provides a meaningful cogent basis for rejoicing in the midst of trials. According to 1 Peter, a trial is an opportunity sent by God to refine and purify one’s faith in such a way that God receives tremendous glory through the painful process. The joy described by Peter is far deeper than a forced smile through tears. No, the joy described by Peter is a deep and abiding knowledge of God’s sovereignty and the love He has for His elect that will certainly guide them to His perfect purposes. This knowledge functions as a rudder that guides the Christian through the storm of earthly trials. It forces the honest Christian to wake up every day, even while suffering, and say with confidence, “God is steering this. He is in control. My pain is real. But God’s plan is good. I am not in control, but He has earned my trust. One way or the other, He will see me through for He Himself is my prize.” In God’s kindness He is forming something that defies human logic.
The painful truth about trials is that very often they are a mixed bag of causes. Determining what exactly God is forming is therefore an impossible task without actual intimacy with God through listening prayer. Sometimes trials are caused by Satan taking aim at individual believers and launching his fiery darts at their most vulnerable and exposed parts. Those fiery darts are nothing more than wicked, malicious, evil intentioned efforts to destroy the faith of believers and hinder vibrant ministry. Darts hurt. Fiery darts burn. These trials need no repentance, they simply need sustaining vigorous prayer to maintain the shield of faith. And it doesn’t hurt to have an Aaron and Hur to hold ones shoulders up when the trial gets rough (Exodus 17:12). In His good timing the Lord sends his angelic ministers to beat back the great enemy of the Lord’s chosen and clear the path forward.
Other trials are self imposed consequences for unchecked and unrepentant sin. When David sinned by murdering his friend Uriah and having an affair with Bathsheba, there were both natural and divine consequences for his behavior. During these sorts of trials, the Christian eagerly runs to the throne of grace with open hands and a listening heart to understand the depth of his own folly, to correct his ways, to seek forgiveness, and to strive for future godliness. As E.M. Bounds said, “He who has never really wept concerning his sins, has never really prayed over his sins.“
And yet more often than not, the trials we endure are a complicated array of both self imposed folly and Satanic vile attack. Satan has studied his target (the Church) for generations. His fiery arrows are launched at just the right time to wreak maximum havoc. He is a menacing merciless foe who, without the full armor of God properly fit and worn, would overcome even the mightiest of Christian saints.
Diagnosing the source of a trial is important. It’s good to understand your battlefield and know what you’re up against. But Peter’s aim and intended result through every trial is clear, “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Whose praise? Whose glory? Whose honor? It is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, our resurrected King. If his fame is the underlying beat of our heart then trials, no matter their source or extremity, become an opportunity to achieve that which we have been seeking all along.
Faith upholds a Christian under all trials, by assuring him that every painful dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of His love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his need.John Newton