Have you ever been afraid that there will be a time that you cannot emotionally bear what you are being asked to endure? Have you ever been at the place where you honestly thought your suffering (in the body, or emotionally) was too much and that you were unable to make it any longer without relief?
Sometimes we fall back on the mistaken belief that what is happening to us is intended to destroy us, and we rarely think about it destroying us spiritually. We hanging on to the material, earthen vessel part thinking this suffering is going to take our life away and “then what?”
Another mistaken belief is that God is just not around while we are being pummeled by our circumstances or that He cannot react fast enough to preserve us or our faith. In reality, God does not react to things; He is not sitting around up there waiting to see what will happen next. He already knows! God equals causation, not reaction.
We fear falling apart, we fear losing our faith. I have seen it myself. In the midst of suffering, we wonder “Don’t You love me God?” “How can You be good and faithful and let this happen?” We listen to the lies Satan whispers in our ear and we begin to believe…God is not good, God is not faithful, God is not for us. That message is compounded by the constant negative drumbeat of the world we live in.
Someone is always trying to tell us the Bible is not true, God is not trustworthy, He is not Who He says He is. How much does it take for a long time believer to begin to wonder if this is all it is cracked up to be? How about a new or untaught believer? How long after being saved did that “nothing bad is ever going to happen to me now that I am a Christian” thing last? And if there is no foundation under that profession of faith, what is there to stand firm on?
Listen carefully to this: People who think that trials and suffering happen because you are not a Christian, or not a “good enough” Christian miss the point that the very strongest source of assurance is tested faith...tested faith.
Suffering and trials can reveal a lack of assurance in one’s salvation.
Sometimes a lack of assurance is warranted because actions don’t indicate there is anything spiritual going on within a person. We don’t see inside the heart of a person so we do not judge the heart; but they have made a profession of faith so we expect to see some evidence of the Holy Spirit within them. Could it be that these trials are to draw them to God toward genuine saving faith?
I am very cautious these days about accepting a profession of faith. When I am as sure as I can be that a person is regenerated, then I can confidently declare to them that the testing they are in the midst of could be the strongest proof of assurance. A sign from God that you indeed do belong to Him! James 1 says that our trials will produce a perfect faith that never doubts. A faith that is so strong that no matter what happens it never touches your eternal hope.
When your response to trials is correct what will come out of them will be a mature complete, confidence in God’s eternal purposes in your life. This can be your greatest source of joy.
Romans 5:1-4 seems to sew it up nicely for us:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…
We exalt in our troubles? Why? Because trouble brings perseverance, perseverance proven character and proven character produces...what?...hope. And hope translates immediately into assurance. If I have a solid hope of my eternal inheritance, I have a present assurance. Where do I get that hope? When my faith is tested and proven.
The trials of life should never cause you to doubt God's salvation, God's love, or God's grace in Christ toward the believer. These trials are given to you as tests to prove His love, to prove His power in your behalf. God brings us trials and sufferings to show us that we are Christians! He is maturing our faith in these times of trial and suffering. And since it is God who is allowing our trials and difficulties, we are to be diligent. We are to endure. We are to be patient.
God is bringing about a result- the full assurance of hope.