By Stephen Altrogge
Being in the valley of trials stinks. It’s painful, disorienting, and confusing. As we stagger and stumble along we often wonder, Where is God? Why is he allowing me to go through this? We feel stuck and broken, like we can’t move forward. We are perplexed, crushed, weighed down, and in the dark. We move ahead slowly, groping and grasping, hoping to find a handhold.
The reality is, however, that God often does his best work in the darkness. As senior demon Screwtape says to junior demon Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters:
Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, he relies on the troughs [low points, valleys, etc.] even more than the peaks; some of his special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.
God does not throw trials at us haphazardly, like an angry fan throwing a beer bottle at a baseball player. He does not accidentally let trials slip into our lives, like an absent-minded babysitter. No, God deliberately leads us into the furnace of trials for very specific reasons. He does not waste suffering. He is not a sadist who derives sick pleasure from inflicting pain on his helpless creatures. Every trial we experience has been hand crafted by God for our good. Trials are God’s kiln. We are the clay, he is the master potter.
What good does God accomplish in the darkness? Here are just a few of the thousands of things God accomplishes.
He Forces Us To Rely On Him
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)
Trials remind us of what is already true: we are desperately dependent on God. We cannot function apart from God. We cannot make it to heaven apart from the sustaining grace of the God who raises dead men. God takes us through trials to decrease our self-confidence and increase our confidence in him.
He Produces Steadfastness In Us
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.(James 1:2-3)
Without steadfastness we will never make it to heaven. We will be like seed that springs up quickly but has no root. We will have the life choked out of us by the cares of this world. God wants us to have a steadfast, steady faith, which is not easily rocked by trial and hardship. Trials cause our faith to mature and become steadfast.
He Prepares Us To Comfort Others
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
When we experience trials we also experience God’s comfort in a unique way. As God’s comfort flows into our lives, we are then divinely prepared to comfort others who are enduring trials. We could not adequately comfort others if we didn’t first receive God’s comfort. Trials ready us to comfort others.
Charles Spurgeon, who was well acquainted with trials, said:
None of us can come to the highest maturity without enduring the summer heat of trials. As the sycamore fig never ripens if it be not bruised, as the corn does not leave the husk without threshing, and as wheat makes no fine flour till it be ground, so are we of little use till we are afflicted. Why should we be so eager to escape such benefits? We shall have to wait with patience, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” He waited to give grace to us; let us wait to give glory to him.
Take heart – God is using the summer heat of trials to bring you to the highest maturity.
Stephen Altrogge serves as pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA. Stephen is author of the books Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wanabes and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Stephen blogs at The Blazing Center.