by Lisa Leidenfrost
It is hard to see at first how God uses trial to bless, but let’s take a look at Paul’s trials and what God does with them.
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).
If we are God’s bondservants, then He can do with us as He pleases for His glory, even if it is to give us hard things to accomplish His purposes, and that is what He did with the apostle Paul. Consider who this God is who is asking such hard things of Paul.
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6).
But He is God, and we are not. We are weak.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (v. 7).
Being weak is part of the design feature that God gave us which is not ‘a negative’. It serves a glorious purpose. Because we are weak, God needs to be strong. So, if God is going to be using weak creatures to show forth His glory, then His power must be there to help. And it is. Look at the result of this power in the life of Paul who trusted God in very hard things. He writes:
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (vv. 8-9).
Notice how even Paul is perplexed. It is very human to ask ‘why’ and wonder what God is doing. When nothing makes sense, go back to what you do know and stand there. Then you are able to say ‘I don’t know why, but I know God and that is enough for me.’ Trusting the God who can see all can keep you from sinking into despair. Even if you have your moments, you’ll keep popping back up to the surface if you keep looking up.
Notice the next part where it says, persecuted, but not forsaken. I can imagine that being persecuted and not being delivered immediately would make a person wonder if God was really there to help. ‘Why hasn’t He delivered me right when I ask?’ But knowing God is knowing He is there and cares and has not forsaken you, even when you can’t see it and have to just believe it by faith. So, what was God asking of Paul? Note the severity of the suffering and the results that happen because of it.
“always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (10, 11).
“So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (12-15).
Look at the incredible hardship the apostle Paul had to go through, but also look at the result. Look at who it benefited. We are in Christ, so Christ’s dying is our dying; His living is our living. And we may be called to a wild type of living that requires some suffering, or lots of suffering, but we are not going through it alone. And the power of God is real. When that power is manifested, Christ is shining out of us and the benefit is not only to us, but to the other saints being affected by it as well.
What are we seeing? The sacrifice of the one to bring blessing to the other. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? He suffered so that we could get blessed? And if God chooses to bring about a hard providence in our lives to accomplish His grand purposes, shouldn’t we give our ‘amen’ to it?
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (16-18).
Perspective is everything, and where you rest your focus during trial is important. So look up, past this moment in time to the eternal God and the glory that is to follow. It is a privilege to be a part of the process. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, God works. Suffering causes that grace to spread and His power to be known. Look at the apostles. Through what God was doing through their suffering many gave thanks and were built up stronger in their faith. God does all things well.
My daughter has this reminder at the bottom of all her emails: “That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into glory.” – C.S. Lewis