Adversity, trials and difficulties are something we all face at some point in our lives. While some people seem to face more frequent or more difficult trials than others, we can never assume we are immune to adversity, just because we’ve had ‘an easy ride’ so far. ‘Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it’ (1Co 10:12–13). Complacency is more dangerous than adversity for the children of God. God always tests those whom He loves; not because He delights in seeing us suffer, but because in His divine wisdom He is seeking to develop righteous character in us. ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.’ (Jas 1:12). Although nobody delights in trials themselves, we can delight in the character-building that results from trials. ‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience’ (Jas 1:2–3). Most of the trials we experience are those things which are common to all human beings, but occasionally something big comes along where you feel overwhelmed and in complete despair. How do we prepare ourselves for such events? If you are in such a trial now, how can you cope and not lose hope? How do you find peace when it seems the world is crashing in around you?
Obviously the first thing to do is to go to God in prayer. We are admonished to be ‘instant in prayer’ (Ro 12:12); in other words, to pray in the moment, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. We are also admonished to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Th 5:17), seeking the Lord daily and repeating our petition; not because God has trouble hearing our prayers, but because He desires our devotion which becomes focused when we are ernest in prayer. Also, by going to God in prayer we are actually strengthening our faith and deepening our relationship with Him. We know that in human relationships, effective communication is essential, and the same is true of the relationship we have with our heavenly Father. Even if we are not currently in a trial, our prayers should include acknowledgement of our reliance on God for guidance and protection. In the model prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to ask, ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ (Mt 6:13). Nobody desires to go through a trial, but sometimes events are beyond our control, which is why we need God to steer us clear of difficulty or deliver us if we get into trouble. At the very least we should make sure we don’t go through any self-imposed trial as a result of our own foolish actions!
In every trial we need to remember that God knows what we are going through and has already prepared ‘the way of escape’. We may not be able to see the end of what we are going through, but God is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning. He is in control and will deliver us if we patiently wait on Him. Waiting on God does not mean inaction on our part, but it does mean trusting God to lead and guide us in our decision-making and giving to God those things outside of our control. Too often we take stress upon ourselves when circumstances are beyond our control. It takes wisdom, but sometimes it’s best not to get ourselves involved and simply wait for God to intervene. We must trust God who is faithful in His promises and whose hand is not shortened that it cannot save (Is 59:1). If the trial seems like it will never end, we should bring to mind the glorious future God has for His elect and how the former things will not be remembered. ‘For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us’ (Ro 8:18). Our brief time in the flesh is less than a grain of sand in the ocean of eternity. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified’ (Ro 8:28–30).
Every day and especially during a trial, we should dwell on the positive things and rejoice always in the Lord. Don’t let worries or cares overtake us. God knows our needs and takes care of them. In the model prayer we are shown to pray for our daily bread (Mt 6:11); in other words, our needs of the day and not those in the far off future. ‘Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’ (Mt 6:25–34). When we go to God with our supplication, we should also give thanks for those things He has already given us. ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Php 4:4–7).
The peace of God is something we can obtain if our focus is taken off ourselves and the troubles around us. Put the kingdom of God first and His righteousness (Mt 6:33). Seek those things above, not those things here on this earth (Col 3:1-2). Show love and forgiveness towards our fellow man and be thankful to God for His mercy towards us. Dwell on God’s Word which is able to make us wise unto salvation and is full of riches for the diligent (2Ti 3:15-17). ‘Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him’ (Col 3:12–17). Jesus has given us every reason to be joyful and from that comes peace. There is peace in knowing that he has redeemed us and peace in knowing he is our advocate before the Father. Before Jesus was about to be betrayed and crucified he encouraged his disciples, knowing that they too would suffer for the sake of the gospel. We have a compassionate High Priest, who can sympathise with our weaknesses. ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ (Jn 14:27).