“When Life is Hard” + LINKUP


When Life is HardWelcome 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.

Pastor MacDonald:

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.


You can get a copy of When Life Is Hard or shop for Other Resources here.


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.

Week #2 – I featured a little gem of a book entitled Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries. You can read my post here.

Week #3 – Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. Read about it here.

Week #4 – Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Read about it here.




Christian bloggers linkupMondays @ Soul Survival is a Christian linkup, a place to share your insights about God and His Word. Feel free to link up multiple posts as long as they bring glory to God. I would love it if you link back in some way. I pin many of your posts on my “Mondays @ Soul Survival” Pinterest board.

If you are new to the linkup let me know in the comments so I can say hello and follow you back.


Sign up for reminders of this LINKUP and Christian Living posts here.

26 thoughts on ““When Life is Hard” + LINKUP

  1. I agree that there is a distinction between a trial and a consequence. I do think that God can still use consequences to grow us but the author wisely points out that when we face a consequence, as he defines it, we need to repent. Consequences are not something we should embrace, unlike trials.

    • Yes, I agree that God can and does use consequences, as well, but like you implied, we shouldn’t be looking for them. I have heard people say, I know what the Bible says about ___________, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’ll just “take” the consequences. The problem is, we can choose to sin, but we don’t get to choose the consequences! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Blessings!

  2. I don’t think consequence is a concept that has been stuffed in a closet right now. The go-to replacement is “unfairness” – and it is sad because we each need to be accountable to the cause/effect of our behavior. I wish I understood about trials when I was younger, but then maybe it is because of those trials that I understand the refinement that was in them now.! Wonderfully insightful post, Donna!

    • Don’t we all wish we understood more … sooner! But, as you said, that’s part of His work in our lives. He knew when we were ready for more truth! I must have been pretty hard-headed! LOL

  3. I really love the look of this book. I have had major storms in my life too. We all do, but the difference is do we go through them with Jesus or try to survive by our own might. I find when I surrender to him the storms are hard but in the end I learn so much and grow in Him. Thanks so much for inspiring us on Literacy Musing Mondays this week.

    • It is a great book. I know it has helped me understand how to better go through those storms. Thanks for hosting and for sharing your thoughts.

  4. that’s a great insight – the long view, the God-view – that what we’re facing gets us ready for His plans. Thanks, Donna, for the book recommendation! have a long-view day! sue in CA

  5. Trials are so confusing since we’re prone to equate temporal blessing with God’s favor. However, there are many verses that indicate that difficulty and hardship are the tools He uses to do great work in our lives. While no one likes adversity, or pain, we have to learn to look for what He does through them so not to be broken by them. thanks for the book review!

  6. That’s a great distinction that was pointed out on the difference between trials and consequences. I think that God can work through both for our good and his glory, but yes, it’s important to make that distinction and respond appropriately. This sounds like a good book.
    Thank you for linking with Grace and Truth last week!

  7. During my last pregnancy, I was 40. Shortly after I found out, it seemed like I may be miscarrying. I was at work (graveyard shift) and had to drive myself to the hospital and lay there w/o any family or friends. So, yes, I was freaking out a little bit.

    But, I had God. I prayed, and acknowledged that I was scared, but I trusted in/submitted to His plan for me and my family. I got the sweetest sense of peace I’ve ever known. (Our daughter turns 14 in about a week.)

    Visiting from Booknificent Thursdays at Mommynificent. Here’s my linked post.

    • What a testimony that is! That sweet sense of peace you talked about truly passes all understanding, doesn’t it! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Blessings!

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