Trials and suffering are part of our lives in this fallen world. We all face them, and God’s Word reminds us that we should not be surprised when they come, but I never seem to be prepared. Somehow in my distracted mind, I am never ready for the inevitable arrival of suffering. And I am certainly not aware, in the moment, of all that God wants to show me through them.
Suffering takes different forms for each of us; it’s tailor-made for our own lives by a loving God. Maybe it’s the betrayal of a close friend, loss of a job, a serious medical diagnosis, death of a loved one, wayward children, marriage infidelity, a tragic accident, loneliness, worldwide pandemic; you can fill in the blank in your own life.
So, what do we do when these trials come into our lives? How do we face them and lean into Him? I don’t believe that there is one right answer, although if there was one formula, it would be easier.
First, I have found that I must spend time in His Word every day. My heart is so forgetful, and in the midst of suffering, I am tempted to rely on my own feelings or emotions. Every trial for me has tested the foundation of my faith: Do I really take God at His word? The only way I can combat the lies of the enemy is to speak the truth of His Word to my heart. I have found writing out a verse or even a quote from a book and placing it where I can see it helps me keep my heart focused. I need to be reminded of what is true many times throughout the day.
Worship songs have also been a means of grace to my heart. We are so blessed with the theologically rich songs we have at our fingertips. Many mornings, I have listened and wept at the words to songs like “Lay It All on Jesus,” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” “When Trials Come,” or “Though He Slay Me.” As I meditate on the words, each one reminds me of the nearness of the Savior. Sometimes, all I can say is, “Lord, I know you hear my cry.”
Paul Tripp in his book, Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, states that our suffering is a community project:
One of God’s sweetest gifts to us between the “already: of our conversion and the “not yet” of our homegoing is the gift of the body of Christ. God makes his invisible grace visible by sending people of grace to give grace to people who need grace. His people are meant to be the look on his face, the touch of his hand, the sound of his voice, the evidence of his love, the picture of his presence, and the visible demonstration of his faithfulness.
I found a few trusted friends, my pastor, and my small group and shared my deepest struggles. They were faithful to pray for me, ask me how I was doing and sometimes just weep with me. The Lord humbly showed me how much I needed His tender care through these friends.
Last, I think that the Lord wants us to know that it is all right to feel weary and discouraged. Again, in his book, Paul Tripp says:
God is not shocked or surprised that you are discouraged. He doesn’t wring his hands, wondering what to do next. He knows every struggle of discouragement in your heart. He knows your cries before you cry. He knew that you and I would be weak; that’s why he promised to be our strength. He has promised never to give up the battle for our hearts until that battle is finally won forever. This means he fights for us even when we have given up the fight.
Little did I know that in the midst of my painful trials, the Lord was doing a deeper work than I could have thought or imagined. He used my trials to teach me so much about who He is and how much I need Him. And despite the pain, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.