“Don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you.”-1 Peter 4:12
God has a purpose behind every problem, using circumstances to develop our character. He uses problems to draw us closer to him—our most profound & intimate experiences of worship will likely be in our darkest days, when we turn to God alone. It is during suffering that we learn to pray our most authentic, heartfelt, honest prayers. Joni Eareckson Tada notes, “When life is rosy, we may slide with knowing about Jesus, imitating him, quoting him & speaking of him. But only in suffering will we know Jesus”.
We learn things about God in suffering that we can’t learn any other way. Problems force us to look to God & depend on him instead of ourselves. We’ll never know that God is all we need until God is all we’ve got.
Romans 8:28-29: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God”. If we give God all our distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them all for good.
Building Christlike character. Warren tells us we are like jewels, shaped with the hammer & chisel of adversity. If a jeweler’s hammer isn’t strong enough to chip off our rough edges, God will use a sledgehammer. If we’re really stubborn, he’ll use a jackhammer. He will use whatever it takes because every problem is a character-building opportunity, & the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle & moral fiber. What happens outwardly in our lives isn’t as important as what happens inside us.
The Bible compares trials to a metal refiner’s fire that burns away impurities. A silversmith knows the silver is pure when he sees his reflection in it—just as when we’ve been refined by trials, people can see Jesus’ reflection in us.
Responding to problems as Jesus would. Problems don’t always produce what God intends—people may become bitter, rather than better, and never grow up. We have to respond the way Jesus would.
-Remember God’s plan is good. God has our best interests at heart. It is vital that we stay focused on God’s plan, not our pain or problem—that’s how Jesus endured the pain of the cross.
-Rejoice & give thanks. No matter what’s happening, we can rejoice in God’s love, care, wisdom, power, & faithfulness. We can also rejoice knowing that God is going thru the pain with us, for He will never leave us on our own.
-Refuse to give up. Whenever we try to avoid or escape the difficulties in life, we short-circuit the process, delay our growth, & actually end up with a worse kind of pain—the worthless type that accompanies denial & avoidance. When facing trouble right now, we shouldn’t ask “Why me?” but instead ask “What do you want me to learn?” Trust God & don’t give up—grow up.
Question to Consider: What problem in my life has caused the greatest growth in me?
I would say 1 or 2 problems caused the greatest growth in me—Losing my father at 16, being the most difficult, requiring me to stand up on my feet for our small remaining family of 3. I didn’t become bitter why this was happening to me, because I didn’t have the opportunity to think that—but I didn’t ask either “what do you want me to learn”. Much later, I realized what that experience had taught me. When my youngest son at 10 was tested repeatedly in the hospital for over a year for possible leukemia, that was when I prayed my most authentic prayers to God—it is true, that that is when I looked to Him & depended on Him alone.
* We will be writing about what inspires us from each consecutive chapter of Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. If you read along with us, please share your inspirations. There’s no need to catch up, just jump right in.