At my church, we are studying 2 Corinthians on Wednesday nights. We looked at chapter 11 this week. We got to the end where Paul was reluctantly boasting in his sufferings for Christ (verses 22-39). Our teacher asked us something like, (if I remember correctly), "How do you handle sufferings? What do you do?"
I thought about that for a few days. I like when our teachers and pastors ask us questions, because I really think about the answers. I like having something biblical to chew over. Here is my answer:
1. I tell myself that this present trial is not permanent. Even if I were to receive a fatal diagnosis or were to suffer in an accident where I was totally disabled, the trial is not permanent. It is temporary. This life is short, being but a vapor (James 4:14). A 20 or even a 40 year trial is nothing, compared to eternity. And thus far, thanks to God's grace, I have NOT received a trial that has lasted all my life. At most, one has lasted 5 years, and most of the rest only a few weeks or months. So whatever I am going through will end. I tell myself that often, because it is true.
2. My trial is not as bad as someone else's. There is always a Christian out there who is suffering more, and usually with more grace than I am, too. Am I in jail for my faith? No. Have I lost employment for my faith? No. Have I lost a child because of Jesus's name? No. And in reading Paul's resume of sufferings, being the epitome of how His grace is sufficient, I have nothing to complain about, even when I am at my darkest or my lowest.
3. I tell myself that He is Good. He IS Good therefore everything He does is good. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). Therefore everything He does is Good. Even Job, who lost all, suffered much, went through one of the bible's most difficult trials, it was Good. How so, you say? Job's trial, his righteousness in looking to God in all things, his victory over the devil as a result, and his restoration was set into the bible, to be read by countless millions of Christians going through trials and needing encouragement. Job's trial was bad, but it helped millions, over thousands of years. Now that's good! So as dark as my trial is, I know something good will emerge out of it.
4. I stay positive. I do not dwell on the bad part I am going through, but pray, read the bible, and tell myself repeatedly that it is for the good. I apply 2 Corinthians 10:5 here, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." I refuse to dwell on how low I may be feeling, because feelings are ephemeral. I concentrate on God's sovereignty, because I know I can rest under His control, even in the seemingly "bad" things. I take the negative thoughts captive while I allow the positive thoughts in. I focus on the promises, not the trials. Romans 5:3-5 helps here, "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." James 1:12 too.
5. Every time I have gone through a trial, I have gotten closer to God. Jesus is my Savior and Lord, and though I can never know all His ways nor ever plumb the depths of His grace, each time I emerge from something bad, I feel closer to Him. This is a good thing! I have that to look forward to on the other side. I have been the recipient of His grace, His comfort, His faithfulness. So even in the bottom of the valley I tell myself that the reward will be a closer relationship with Him. It keeps me going.
6. I read the bible a lot. When I am going through a dark time, I wash myself in the Word even more than usual. I cling to it. I read it and chew on it and it fills me up instead of the darkness and negativity that would be there instead. His gift of spiritual armor is in place for a reason. It can withstand the fiery darts of the evil one. The bible is truth, and it sustains us. I turn to it and appeal to the Spirit for encouragement. The Spirit assures us, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”" (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit empowers us, "“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”" (Luke 24:49). He helps our weakness! "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;" (Romans 8:26). If I do not read the bible I would not be reading these truths about His work in our lives and His power to help us overcome.
These are a few of the things that I do when I come upon a trial, and I do have them. I am relentlessly joyful despite them, because the Most High is in my heart, helping me. I surely cannot do it on my own. But He is there, in so many ways. Never forget that, even as dark as it may get in your own life, dear brethren.
What do you do when you go through a trial?
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