On Receiving Trials

By Aaron Elder


This follows on prior posts I wrote called, “When Trials Come” and “Discipline and Diapers Part 2.” So here is the question I want to wrestle with: Are the trials we face, gifts, in and of themselves, or are they only gifts based on what they produce (ref. James 1: 2-4)?

Thumb through your rolodex of trials and pull one up – preferably one that still feels unresolved. Find one where the pain still feels raw. Once you’ve found it, stop, go back and ask the question I asked above. What do you think?

Let’s walk through a hypothetical situation. You made a HUGE mistake at work. You cost the company tens of thousands of dollars type of mistake. It’s made known to you and you’re in turmoil. Can’t eat, can’t sleep, so stressed you can’t think straight. What if I get fired? How will I pay the bills? What if the company goes under? Well, I have good news, it was a big mistake and you were part of it, but the mistake actually led to the business strengthening its processes, you learned about enduring a trial and your boss and coworkers affirmed their belief in you. What a gift from the Lord – what seemed like a HUGE failure was actually a HUGE win for everybody. Cool.

Let’s run this another way.

Bad news. You’re fired. Not only that, you’ve been set up and you’re being indicted for fraud you didn’t commit. The business is going under and as a convicted felon you’ll never work in your occupation ever again not to mention being separated from your family in jail for the next 10 years. What a… gift? No way Jose.

Wasn’t the original trial the same in both circumstances? What made one a gift and the other not? The outcome working in such a way that I feel better about myself. Huh.

Let’s rewind a bit. Do you remember the feelings before the situation resolved? Can’t eat or sleep – stressed out. What if that’s the gift? God is so committed to your sanctification that He wants to bring to the surface your idols so He can destroy them – if you’ll let Him. You do know that He could have let you continue in your perfectionistic, aggrandizing nihilism as you climbed the corporate ladder don’t you? He could have turned you over to the lusts of your flesh (Romans 1). But He didn’t.

Here’s the deal. If God isn’t good then we’ll have to wait to see how it turns out to determine if it is really a gift. And if you don’t see this as a gift… how are you going to recognize the others following on the heels of the first? Bitterness does not increase your ability to recognize gifts. But if He is good, then EVERYTHING we get is a gift which allows us to recognize the gifts we get downstream from the trial for what they are. And again, God lavishes on grace.

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