I recently read a book entitled “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin. In this amazing book, Jen shares about how she used to go about studying her Bible (in order to get answers, in order to find something to bless her, in order to comfort and heal her), and how she has changed and now studies God’s Word in order to know God better and more deeply. She goes on to explain that in learning who God is through His Word and learning His character, we see how our own character falls short and how we need Him to change us. Jen’s book encouraged me to start studying my Bible in a more in-depth way, not in order to change myself, which will come with knowing who God is, but in order to know God deeply and intimately. I highly recommend this book. Here is a picture of it so you can find it on Amazon or at the Christian book store:
Jen also has many Bible studies online at her website jenwilkin.net for Free! You can download the study guides and listen to her teachings that go along with the guide at no cost, except the amount in ink used on your printer or the cost at Staples to print it out for you! I recently started going through her study on the Book of James, which is what this blog post is truly about.
James is a hard and convicting book. The first chapter talks about counting it all joy when we meet various trials:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
James 1:2-4 NKJV
If you are anything like me, you try your best to avoid trials, conflict, hardship, and afflictions at all costs. I do not seek these things out, nor do I generally enjoy them or see them as a blessing and something to be joyful about when they happen to me! But here is the thing, God tells me to count it all joy when I fall into various trials. He also tells me in Romans 5:3-5 to glory in tribulations:
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5 NKJV
And that my afflictions are light and momentary and working for me an eternal weight of glory…they are preparing me for Heaven, for God’s glory:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,”
II Corinthians 4:16-17 NKJV
God goes on to say that He is disciplining me for my own good. The things that I go through, the hard, painful trials, the afflictions and seasons when I don’t think I can keep going because it is too hard or too painful, those things are for my good. God allows them for my benefit!
“For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 12:10-11 ESV
God uses our trials and afflictions to yield fruit in us, to produce in us perseverance, character, and hope! He also uses these trials and suffering to enable us to comfort others:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”
II Corinthians 1:3-5 NKJV
If all of these amazing and wonderful things come from trials, afflictions, and suffering, then why do we get so irritated, overwhelmed, disheartened, heart-broken, and frustrated when the Lord allows a trial in our lives? I think many times when we are hit with something horrible, whether that be cancer, the death of a child, the loss of a friendship, a cheating spouse, children who walk away from the Lord, etc., we don’t see it from God’s perspective, we don’t look for the Lord in it. Most of the time, I am too busy crying out, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, GOD?!” and not quietly praying and asking the Lord to reveal Himself in a deeper way through this, to refine me and change me through this, to increase my trust and faith through this, to help me to be able to comfort others through this.
Trials suck, I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t enjoy them and I have not arrived at the place where I rejoice when a wave of affliction comes and smacks me right in the face, crashing me to the bottom of the ocean floor and filling up my bathing suit with gritty sand. I pray that I would have a better perspective on trials though, and that when they happen, I would look to the Lord and not to myself. I pray that you would do this too, that our trials and afflictions would increase our faith and change our characters to be more like Christ; that they would refine us so that the image people see in us is the image of Christ and not the image of our flesh.
One more thing before I go… at the beginning of this blog I posted a picture of my first Dahlia that has bloomed this year. I took this picture a few days ago as a reminder to myself that trials and afflictions cause us to become stronger and more beautiful. Last summer my Dahlia plant was trampled by our dog and destroyed. I was bummed that it had died and I didn’t think it was ever going to come back. Well this spring I saw this plant growing up out of the ground and I had forgotten that I had planted a Dahlia there last spring. I was so excited when I saw it growing and thriving, bigger and better than ever! It looks so beautiful and healthy now! When I spotted this first bloom, God gently spoke to my heart and said, “See Carrie, you thought that flower was gone and dead, but now look at it! That is how I use trials in people’s lives. It may look like everything is destroyed, but I cause those hardships to make them come back stronger and more beautiful than before.” Have you ever met someone who has gone through some horrible things, but they are the sweetest, most kind and amazing Christians? They are so comforting and encouraging. They are the ones you go to when you are hurting, because you know that they understand and have been through it. They are that way because the Lord has used trials and afflictions in their lives to refine them and make them more like Himself. May we trust in the Lord and not lose heart, may we see things through His eyes and not fall apart when hard times come to us. May we be thankful that we have Him with us to carry us through and may we have faith that He is going to use all things in our lives for His glory and for our good.