By Elizabeth Prata
“Joy is not our natural response to trouble, so deeming a trial joyful requires discipline. The Christian must make a conscious commitment to face each trial with a joyous heart. When Paul said in Phil 4:4 he had learned to be content in all circumstances, he was a prisoner in Rome. He had learned to be content in the midst of his trials. That doesn’t happen by accident.” John MacArthur, Benefiting from Life’s Trials.
The critical thought to take away is that this joyful stance must be consciously nurtured every day, and can only be done by growing in the Word. WHEN trials occur in your life it will be too late to stand on joy, we must practice it all the time, and thus, we will be ready WHEN the trial comes.
Do you consciously or unconsciously change the word ‘when’ to ‘if’? Jesus said trials will come, everyone whose name is identified with His will endure trouble in this life (John 16:33). But too often if a period of time goes by when our comforts are steady and our life is tranquil, we begin to think that this status will always be the quo.
It will not.
For anyone undergoing a trial or helping someone undergoing a trial or watching someone undergoing a trial or is about to undergo a trial- which covers ALL of us, just know that it will happen.
Sometimes a trial comes in slowly and incrementally like the tide and you can see the end won’t be well, as with a monthly shrinking bank account or rolling layoffs at work. But other times it comes in like a surprise comet, blasting into your life with a suddenness that startles and shocks. Be ready to confront it with joy, by having nurtured such equanimity all along. When you see the blazing comet appear, it will be too late.
In his book “A Token for Mourners” (retitled Facing Grief as a Puritan paperback) Puritan John Flavel said,
TO be above the stroke of passion, is a condition equal to angels: to be in a state of sorrow without the sense of sorrow, is a disposition beneath beasts: but duly to regulate our sorrows, and bound our passions under the rod, is the wisdom, duty, and excellency of a Christian. He that is without natural affections, is deservedly ranked amongst the worst of heathens; and he that is able rightly to manage them, deserves to be numbered with the best of Christians. Though when we are sanctified we put on the Divine nature, yet, till we are glorified, we put not off the infirmities of our human nature.
So Flavel affirms the understanding that the Christian can and should grieve, we are human after all. His treatise though, warns about excesses which destroy our witness in the Gospel. Launching off the verse from, – Luke 7:13- “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not,” Flavel continues,
Yet the words are not an absolute prohibition of tears, and sorrow; he doth not condemn all mourning as sinful, or all expressions of grief for dead relations as uncomely; no, Christ would not have his people stupid, and insensate; he only prohibits the excesses, and extravagancies of our sorrows for the dead, that it should not be such a mourning for the dead as is found among the heathen, who sorrow without measure, because without hope, being ignorant of that grand relief, which the gospel reveals.
And that is the key. Our reaction to trials, whether they involve dread illness, loss, grief, drastic change in life’s circumstance, and so on, will be laced with the human emotion of shock and grief, but should also exhibit the joy and strength we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that is something that doesn’t just appear at the moment, but is nurtured in us every day by our spiritual practices.
A well-disciplined Christian will respond to God’s trial-laced outworking in his or her life with grace and joy through tears. One who is not prepared may allow sorrow to become sinful and excessive, when, “It causes us to slight and despise all our other mercies, and enjoyments as small things, in comparison of what we have lost”, when we become insensitive to “public evils and calamities which lie upon the church and people of God”, when such sorrow interrupts our communion with heaven, and so on, says Flavel. And that is precisely the opposite of the purpose of trials.
The only way to display the joy and confidence in the Lord is to nurture the Gospel seed in us daily, watering it with the word, providing shade for it through repentance, shedding Light upon it through prayer.
Trials will come. Are you ready?
This was episode 281 (season 2) of The End Time Podcast
Women’s Hope podcast: Is it Well With Your Soul? part 1, part 2 with Susan Heck, part 3. Synopsis- “Why do we suffer as Christians? Where is God in times of pain? And how are we supposed to respond? These and other questions are the topic of this next series. In this episode, Kim and Shelbi introduce the topic of trials, offering a biblical framework for thinking about suffering and its purposes in our lives.”
The Priceless Gift in Every Trial, article by Dave Mathis
A Token for Mourners, ebook by John Flavel (.pdf)
Benefiting from Life’s Trials, scripture workbook by John MacArthur.
Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God, book by Tim Challies