Why are trials and tribulations part of the Christian life?
One of the most difficult parts of the Christian faith is the testing we face as believers. Why does God allow us to face trials, tribulations, and temptations?
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James 1:2-4 offers an insightful look: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." We are to consider trials with joy because they ultimately lead to our spiritual maturity.
Jesus mentioned this concept in John 15:2: "Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." Those who follow God often face various forms of "pruning" or struggles in order to bear more fruit. In other words, the difficulties God allows in our lives allow us to grow in maturity (fruitfulness) and better serve the Lord.
Paul wrote about the impact of suffering and its usefulness in comforting and helping others when he shared, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Paul's afflictions gave him experiences through which he could better comfort others who also faced afflictions.
God often uses our most difficult struggles for us to help others with similar struggles. A person who has struggled with an eating disorder is often the best person to help someone else with this struggle. A former alcoholic is often the best counselor to others seeking to break from the control of alcohol. While these trials are not enjoyable, God can and does use our weaknesses to bring hope to others.
Trials also remind us that something better lies ahead for those who believe. In Romans 8:18 Paul wrote, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Though he faced many difficulties, they could be endured because he knew something far greater awaited him after this life.
A final encouragement regarding trials is that those who endure faithfully can anticipate eternal rewards. James 1:12 promises, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." Our tribulations in this life are difficult, yet only temporary. Even now, God is at work to use our pain to help those in need and will reward those who faithfully endure.
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