When God leads us into trials, he does so in order to accomplish something in our lives that he could not accomplish through other, less trying, means. So, rather than cowering when life tries to bean us, we should stand straight and swing away, knowing that God is presenting us with an opportunity to hit a spiritual home run.
Listen to James 1:2–8:
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. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Or consider the similar statement Paul expresses in Romans 5:3–5: “Not only so, but 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.”
In both passages, the most immediate effect of trials is perseverance. In Greek, the word is hupomone, which literally means, “to remain under,” and is also translated into English as “patience.” Difficult circumstances may try our patience. Only by remaining under them for a period of time can we become better people. They are the gateway to character. For, as someone has said, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”
Think of Job. He endured two brutal trials—the loss of his children and the loss of his wealth (Job 1:6–2:10). And yet, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said,” that is, in how he responded to God. He remained faithful, saying to God at the end, “I know that you can do all things” (42:2). Because of Job’s revitalized faith, God rewarded him with “twice as much as he had before”—twice as many children and twice as much wealth (42:10–16).
Trials are not easy to bear, but they can be borne. And in the process of bearing them, we realize something about God and something about ourselves. We realize that God has given us all the resources we need both to survive through and thrive in trying times (1 Cor. 10:13). And we realize that we are becoming better people in the process. So, when we experience trials, let us pray to God, thanking him for them, knowing that through them, he is doing something great in us. He is producing patience, maturity, completeness, wisdom, faith, and hope—in a word, character.