Welcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald, one of the best books I have ever read about tests and trials.
Pastor MacDonald wrote this book in the midst of what he calls “a storm and finally a category 5 hurricane.” What he learned can help each one of us as we go through our own tests, trials and storms.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “He knows the plans He has for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”
Yes! That’s what I want to hear, you may be thinking. Let’s get on those plans right now—future, hope, blessing. I’m ready! But here’s the thing: God knows something else. He knows that we’re not always ready for the plans that He has for us. So He has some plans to get us ready for His plans. That’s really what this book is about—taking the difficult things that God allows into your life, and getting to the place where the blessing can be received.
The key truth he drives home throughout the book is from Job 23.10:
“He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
God knows what is going on in each of our lives and He has promised to use trials for good in our lives (Rom. 8.28-29).
Pastor MacDonald defines trials this way:
A trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character. My conduct—that’s what I do. And then to a deeper level, my character—that’s who I am.
He goes on to help us first evaluate our hard circumstances. Are they trials or a consequences? This is an important distinction. The author:
Many times people say, “We’re going through the most awful trial right now!” yet a discerning person would want to say, “Uh, I don’t think that’s a trial; that’s a consequence for your own actions.” For example, you lost your job and money is tight, so you rob a bank. You end up in prison with a mean cell mate. Do you call that trial or consequence? Don’t be thinking, God is refining me. No, you probably shouldn’t have broken the law. Take a hard look at your situation because the way out is different if it is a consequence. The way out of a consequence is repentance. If you did wrong you need to make it right with God through repentance and with the people your sin injured through restitution.
A trial is a completely different scene. You didn’t bring a trial into your life. This is something that God has allowed. You didn’t cause it, you didn’t choose it, and you could do nothing to stop it.
Trials we embrace and learn from, consequences we repent and turn from.
Most of the time we really don’t want to learn from our painful circumstances. In fact, we are usually asking: Why? Why me? Why now? Why this?
Pastor MacDonald hits these hard questions and others head on:
- Why trials?
- What do I do with trials?
- What if I refuse this trial?
- Why do some trials never end?
Then page by page the author leads us into a deeper understanding of James 1.2-4 and Hebrews 12.5-17. He expands on what James meant when he told us to “let endurance have its perfect result.” And he helps us realize that God disciplines those He loves. He also warns us of the danger of refusing to allow God to work through our tests and trials.
In the end, we learn that while we may not get all our questions answered (Job certainly didn’t), we can learn what James understood, that we can have joy (Jas. 1.2) and bring God glory in the midst of the hardest of tests and trials.
Quotations taken from:
MacDonald, James (2010-01-01). When Life is Hard. Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Previously featured books:
Week #1 – Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day by Glynnis Whitwer. You can read my post here.
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