Trials, testing, waiting, and growth
Last weekend as I was praying, I felt like God was highlighting a belief that perhaps many of us have found ourselves tempted to think and perhaps have even come into agreement with: that trials are a sign of God's disapproval of us.
I'll be the first to say I have found myself entertaining these thoughts, even as of late--that somehow the trials I'm experiencing, the lack of breakthrough I've felt, or the wrestling I've walked through is somehow God withholding from me out of disapproval, displeasure, or to leave me to work it out on my own. Looking at these thoughts, that couldn't be more ridiculous. But in the moment when strength feels drained and the pressure feels real, it can be tempting to let our thoughts drift there. (Note: there is difficulty that can be experienced that is the result of our own disobedience. It's the result of our choice. This is a different subject. When we acknowledge and repent, God will restore us and bring us back into alignment with Him.)
So what is God doing when we experience resistance?
Many of us are comfortable with the blessing of the Lord in the form of receiving breakthrough and answered prayers, but what about trials as a blessing? What about testing and waiting as a gift?
In the valley, the wilderness, and climbing the mountain moments, the Lord has been teaching me to come into alignment with truth and see these moments for what they really are: for good. James 1 declares:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, NIV)
What is God doing? In His kindness, He is strengthening us. He is maturing us. Trials are gateways for growth. They reveal what is in our heart. They strengthen our faith. They are intended to move us towards God, not away. Trials and testings are instruments for refinement, and God refines us because He loves us and is causing us to look more like Him.
"My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom He delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12, NASB)
So, why can't God just impart maturity to us? Simply put, God didn't design it to work that way. He has created us to live in partnership with Him. He wants us to live with an active faith--not a passive one. An active faith causes us to partner with God to produce sustainable foundations in our lives. Maturity is not something that is simply read-- it is cultivated, learned, and worked out by the power of the Spirit. He wants to empower us to live victoriously.
"My beloved ones, just like you’ve always listened to everything I’ve taught you in the past, I’m asking you now to keep following my instructions as though I were right there with you. Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God—which brings you trembling into His presence." (Philippians 2:12, TPT)
We are instructed to work out our salvation with reverence towards God, dependent upon Him, in humility. This isn't saying we earn our salvation. It means we are living it out, walking into deeper wholeness and likeness of Christ. God wants us to thrive in this life and walk in the fullness of what He's intended for all of our days.
So, when we encounter trials, it isn't because God is displeased. Instead, it's His favor, wanting to bring us into greater fruitfulness and growth, because He loves us and cares for us. He is strengthening us to be able to walk out and carry all He desires to give us, and that requires unshakeable foundations. He is producing sustainability.
If you are experiencing a trial at this very moment, ask God what He is doing. What is He cultivating in you or teaching you? Take heart. You are being refined and strengthened, because He loves you. In Christ, you are more than a conqueror. Be encouraged and empowered as you watch Him work.
I write from the place of personal experience, study of God's Word, and reflection on who God is. With any and all posts, I encourage you to pray, search the Word, and seek Him on these topics.