Six things you need to remember as you walk through trials (I Peter 1:6-7)

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, reminds us of the importance of talking to ourselves rather than listening to ourselves. But what should we be saying to ourselves when suffering and pain are our lot? I Peter 1:6-7 gives us (at least) six things that ought to fill our mouths and hearts: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1. Trials are distressing. It may seem pointless to tell yourself something you already know, by excruciating experience. Pain is painful; there are few truths more tautological and self-evident. Yet isn’t there great comfort in the fact that God in His word affirms the grievousness, the heaviness, the sorrow of suffering? You’re not crazy. What you’re going through hurts. God is not unaware of that fact. With the disciples in the boat, we are tempted to cry out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). But He is not uncaring or cold. So find solace in His sympathy.

2. Trials are various. It’s another truth that might make us raise an eyebrow and think, “Do I really need to tell myself that?” Yet how gracious and realistic is the recognition of God: our trials are like Baskin Robbins ice cream – they come in a variety of types and colors and strengths and flavors, and sometimes you get more than one scoop. Like Joseph’s coat of many colors (the same Greek word is used in Genesis 37:3), we endure a panoply of affliction, and often multiple trials at one time. Being a disciple of Christ doesn’t spare you from all sorts of suffering; indeed, the exact opposite is true (Phil. 1:29; II Tim. 3:12; Rom. 8:17). So never allow say to yourself, “I’m a Christian, why am I suffering so many things?” Rather, say, “I’m a Christian, through many tribulations I must enter the kingdom of God” (Act 14:22).

3. Trials are only for a little while. This truth can sometimes be the hardest to believe. And if it didn’t come from the mouth of God Himself, we might accuse the speaker of being trite or cold-hearted, one of Job’s comforters. This is God’s word, though. Our trials are only for a little while. In the heat of the moment(s), we are tempted to believe otherwise. Yet even if “a little while” is the entirety of our earthly lives, that span pales in comparison to eternity. One day, our trials will terminate, our suffering will stop. We must beat this into our heads repeatedly.

4. Trials only come if necessary. If comfort is found in the length of our trials, how much more is comfort found in the truth that we only get what we need? And who knows what we need better than our heavenly Father? He who ordains whatsoever comes to pass, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, never allows us to suffer one millisecond longer than is needful. He knows what we need and what we can bear. We may not see why we need to go through this or that affliction, but the all-seeing God certainly does. And so we trust Him, and entrust ourselves to Him. Speak the peace of God’s sovereignty to your heart day by day, moment by moment.

5. Trials come to prove our faith. The Bible gives us many reasons why God ordains that we go through trials (John Newton has given us several of them here). One of the most obvious, given the word itself, is to try us – to bring us through the refining fires, to test us, to purify our faith, to remove the dross and leave the genuine article. God through our suffering is proving the value and strength of our faith. It’s through faith that He keeps us, thus this faith must persevere and be strengthened. Gold grows less by the refining process; the dross is swept away. Faith, on the other hand, increases, is improved and multiplied, as the unbelief and disobedience is swept away. Our faith is strengthened through trials. But there is a reason even beyond the proving process: that the tested genuineness of our faith may be found to result in praise, glory and honor when Christ returns. Certainly the triune God will be praised, glorified and honored. But the Bible is clear that there will be praise, glory and honor for us as well (I Pet. 5:1, 4; Matt. 25; Col. 3:4; II Cor. 4:16; Rom. 2:10, 29; I Cor. 4:5). It is difficult perhaps to determine which Peter has in mind. But a refined, proven faith will result in both. There is therefore benefit in trial, both in this life and the next. Never let yourself forget this truth.

6. In the midst of trials, our joy is found in our great salvation. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though…” In what? In the wonder of God’s amazing and powerful grace unfolded with such beauty in verses 3-5: in our being born again to a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection; in our imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance that God is reserving for us in heaven; in God’s powerful protecting of us through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We rejoice in what is eternally true, even while experiencing light and momentary affliction. Our joy is grounded in never-changing realities, not ever-changing circumstances. Joy and sorrow coexist in the Christian’s heart till the day Jesus returns. And then our joy will be complete, richer and fuller than we have ever dreamed.

Remember these six simple sentences, so that you might repeat them to yourself in times of trial. Stop listening to the lies and half-truths that are from the pit of hell, which seek to undermine our confidence in the wisdom, power and love of God. Speak truth to your heart, and be at peace.

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