How is it possible to still have joy or find joy while you’re in the middle of a trial?
Trials of Persecution
From time to time I get the great privilege of speaking with missionaries around the world through the Internet and personal contact. What these missionaries request prayers for astounds me. They never ask for the persecution to stop but that they will be faithful in these persecutions. Most missionaries recognize they will be persecuted and are not surprised when it happens. They don’t seek to escape persecution, only to be faithful to Christ in it. In fact, the Apostle Peter saw being persecuted for the faith as a great blessing, as he wrote, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19), because “when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:20). In fact, “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14), because “it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). Peter’s point is that “if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16); and “if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). Who wouldn’t want that? Jesus adds, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Even more, “blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). That’s how you find joy during trials of persecution. You are being persecuted just like the prophets of old, the disciples of Christ, and Jesus Himself. So you are in great company.
Trials of Illness
When we are afflicted with a serious illness or debilitating disease, we can do one of two things: crumple under this trial or glorify God in it. I know what you probably want to do, which is to glorify God. But how can we find joy during times of suffering through an illness or disease? We know what the Apostle Paul wrote in comparing today’s suffering with what’s to come, as he wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). He was trying to compare the awesome glory that’s coming in the kingdom with the tiny slice of time today where we’re suffering. Paul knew that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul gives us more perspective, writing that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). James wants us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Trials of Fire
The word “fire” is often a word used in the Bible as being symbolic of God’s judgment. Sometimes the fiery trials come from mankind. Knowing this, the Apostle Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). As Paul writes, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). What we must learn to do is “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:2-4). That takes our eyes off ourselves and puts them onto Jesus Christ.
We might not be able to see why suffering is good until we reach the kingdom. However, today we can read that our trials of suffering “happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11). We know God wants us to fully rely on Him. If we’re not, He may bring us into the path of suffering to rid us of our pride and self-sufficiency and make us return to Him.
I hope this has helped you see why God allows suffering. He is working in us to perfect us and refine us, much like gold is refined in the fire. The fire removes the impurities and brings out the best in the gold. That’s the idea behind suffering. If we recognize that, we can truly find joy in any trial.