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Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.
Today we’ll look at tests and trials.
The Divine Squeeze
It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.
But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!
That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.
Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.
My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient. My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”
Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.
But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).
Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials
When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them. Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:
It’s always my fault.
Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.
If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).
The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:
1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).
Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.
It’s always someone else’s fault.
Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.
It’s no one’s fault.
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.
We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.
A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.
This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.
So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?
10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials
1. We all experience trials and sufferings.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).
2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.
I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).
3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.
He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.
4. God is never the author of sin.
Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).