Friday 27 June 2014


Making sense of trials
When believers go through trials and tribulations, it’s natural to ask God, “Why? Why does this have to happen to me?” Sometimes, God remains silent and fails to grant us relief from our suffering.

A successful professor bought a BMW for his son. But calamity struck. While putting the car through a speed test, the young man met with an accident and perished. The professor’s wife also died in the car crash.

Distraught, the professor found life meaningless since he had lost those closest to him. After coming to terms with his sorrow, he decided to use his expertise in organic farming to help poor farmers improve their livelihood. The grief he had experienced helped him to empathise with the lot of the marginalised.

Similarly, when Job was afflicted, he did not get any clear answer from God why the Creator had allowed him to endure such pain.

When the apostle Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, he sought relief from God but was told: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God had allowed him to endure suffering that he might not be too elated over abundant revelations (2 Cor. 12: 7) and that the power of Christ may rest on him (2 Cor. 12:9).

Notice in the above two instances, God had allowed Satan to have a hand in causing affliction to these great saints.
We are never meant to know all the ways and workings of an infinite and almighty God. And we will never have full understanding this side of eternity as to why He allows believers to go through trials.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT).

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). We are like clay in the hands of the Master Potter.

Sometimes He reveals His secrets to prophets (Amos 3:7). But if He chooses not to do so, He has every right for He is sovereign. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (Proverbs 25:2).

The purpose of suffering is that believers might experience what their Master had to go through and, in the process, become spiritually mature. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

In 2 Corinthians 4:8, the apostle Paul confesses, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.” If the great apostle was perplexed amid trials, who are we that we’re able to figure everything out?

Trials and tribulations teach us a lot, especially in the areas of character development and personal growth. We need to see adversity as something positive, ask for wisdom to overcome them—and develop faith and patience as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:2-8).

“Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and endurance” (Hebrews 6:12).


God gave Joseph a dream that he would be great—his family members would come and bow down to him. But far from travelling down easy street towards his objective, he landed himself in hot soup. He was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers and later sold off to slave traders.

Then he was imprisoned, being falsely accused for trying to sleep with Potiphar’s wife (whereas it was the latter who tried to seduce him). While in prison, God was with him and caused everything he did to succeed (Genesis 39:23)

Joseph maintained a positive attitude through thick and thin—that God was with him through it all. And, because of his faith, he moved from pit to prison to the pinnacle of power in Egypt. He finally rose to the position of governor of Egypt, second in rank to Pharaoh.

Such a position came with great authority. After interpreting Pharaoh’s dream that seven years of famine would follow seven years of plenty, he moved ahead with plans to build storehouses to stockpile grain. 

When famine struck, his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain. As a mark of respect, they bowed down to him. Thus Joseph’s dream was finally fulfilled against seemingly impossible odds.

As a result of God’s dealings in his life, Joseph was able to say to his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

From Joseph’s life, we learn that God uses trials to enlarge us—that we might be able to fulfill our potential for His glory.


Even though we may not understand why God has allowed trials to be our portion, we can take comfort in this: God has a purpose when He puts us through painful experiences. 

God disciplines us for our good in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12: 10b-11).

Perhaps some notable quotes may help us find meaning in adversity:

Crisis creates opportunity – Chinese proverb.

The fact is that life is either hard and satisfying or easy and unsatisfying – Richard Leider.

For everyone praises endurance but few are prepared to endure –Thomas A Kempis.

The more his body is reduced by suffering, the more his spirit is strengthened by inward grace – Thomas A Kempis.

 The above article was published in Asian Beacon magazine, June-July 2014, issue 46.3


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