What Are Trials?
5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? —Hebrews 12:5-7
Throughout this month we are going to think about what we can learn about God when life is hard. In the New Testament, the Greek word for trial means “to prove by testing; an event that demonstrates the genuineness of your faith in Christ and refines the quality of your spiritual life.” So let’s agree on this definition:
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.
Trials are about what God is adjusting in the actions I choose, and what God is doing to the character that helps me choose those actions. Several biblical terms for trials are actually interchangeable: suffering, hardship, tribulation, chastising, and discipline. Trials are hard times!
These hard times vary both in intensity and duration. Tribulation can take you by storm, fast and furious, altering life forever. Or a trial can stretch over months, or years, or in some instances, decades. A trial can be small and irritating or huge and shattering.
The one thing we know for sure about trials is everyone experiences them. In fact, if you’re one of God’s children, you’re going through a trial right now. Some size. Some shape. It is the most difficult aspect of your life. Is it physical? Is it relational? Is it economic? Is it emotional? Is it circumstantial?
Hebrews 12:5-7 is a great place to start answering our question, “What are trials?” Read the passage again. The subject is discipline, a term that describes God’s involvement in the hardest part of your life. Discipline is training. It’s like parental instruction. A loving and wise parent knows their child will benefit from certain discomfort and pain. A child’s desires are no guide for healthy growth.
And God says, “I love you, so I’m putting you through what will bring the best out of you.” When He saved us, He started the process He will continue until the day we die. Salvation is just the beginning. Trials mean God is working on you. When His work
’s done, it’s heaven for you!—James MacDonald
· What are the trials in my life right now?
· How would I describe the lessons I’ve learned about God so far in these trials?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for not insisting I enjoy or like my trials. Thank You even more for teaching me You can provide joy in the midst of trials. Thank You for the hope in You that remains in spite of trials. Forgive me for times when I slip into self-pity or doubt about Your faithfulness. A moment of reflection is enough to remind me that You always have been faithful which turns what I consider a deeply distasteful trial into a sweet memory of Your closeness. So I thank You for all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.