Though you haven’t seen him, you love him, and though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible & filled with glory. – 1 Peter 1:8
After reading tonight from Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, I thought I’d pass along some good reminders about our experience of trials and tough times.
The verse above tells of a group that is experiencing trial and suffering, yet they are filled with joy. It should be an encouragement to know that others have fought their way through trials and still found joy in the midst of struggle. By faith, we can too.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time finding the good when I’m in the middle of a tough time in my life. That’s why I think it’s helpful that Edwards lists three benefits of trials.
First, trials tend to reveal that which is true and that which is false. That’s why they are called trials. I find this to be the case in distinguishing those who are authentic followers of Jesus from those who seem to believe as long as it is comfortable. But I also find that it reveals the true and the false in my own heart.
Second, trials show the glory and beauty of authentic faith. When a single mom faces unemployment and trusts that God will provide, it’s a beautiful thing. When a man is “circling the drain” (as a good friend of mine used to say) with cancer and keeps a joyful grin, it’s an inspiring thing to watch. As long as these are authentic displays and not put on, they are healthy signs of God’s peace. Trials show off God’s power in us. They say that we have a God who will never leave us of turn his back on us, even when our circumstances seem to say otherwise.
Third, trials purify and refine authentic faith. Trials have a way of surfacing the good as well as the ugly in us. Spiritual transformation never comes by pretending, so seeing the truth about our lives helps us grow. Trials teach us to let go of lesser loves that won’t deeply satisfy us or give us joy that lasts. Trials help us see that those things that distract us from Jesus just aren’t worth it. When we keep the faith and persevere during the tough seasons of life, our faith grows. As our faith in God grows, our joy becomes more rich and real.
So, let your faith be strong when you can see nothing but trials in your circumstances, and the unseen Jesus will give you indescribable joy. This is the promise that we trust when times are hard.
Does this resonate with your experience? What have you found helpful during tough times?