Recently my infant, Piper, got sick at daycare. At a mere six weeks old, her projectile vomiting was cause for concern. Dehydration sets in quickly. Thankfully my wife, Shale, got her in to see the pediatrician that same day. All was supposedly well. As she put Piper back in the car seat and called me to explain the news, Piper had projectile vomited again. In reality, all was not well.
Shale immediately called the pediatrician’s office again and was able to return so Piper could be checked a second time. After getting blood and urine samples, the doctor said they’d like to keep her overnight for observation. We weren’t expecting that but we thought it was no big deal.
Then one night turned into two days. No resolution. No root cause as to why the vomiting persisted. On Friday, the third day, we had good news. We finally had a cause: E. coli. As scary as E. coli is, at least we knew what the culprit was. Piper was placed on aggressive antibiotics (the E. coli she had was resistant to antibiotics) and would soon get better, hopefully. But then came the bad news.
The doctor wanted to keep Piper at the hospital for observation until the antibiotics were finished. That would be seven days. Seven days of stress. Seven days of hustling around town to get to work on time. Seven days of being a functional single parent. Seven days of trials.
Seven days of stress. Seven days of hustling around town to get to work on time. Seven days of being a functional single parent. Seven days of trials.
Long story short, Piper is doing wonderfully now. She is 100% better and all is truly well. But no parents want to see their infant become ill—definitely not with something that is potentially fatal. We prayed and prayed and prayed. Even better, we had so many people—our families, friends, and church—praying for us!
Though this was a great trial for us, we didn’t despise it, for we know God works in us through them. And he does so in different ways.
TRIALS TEST THE GENUINENESS OF OUR FAITH
In Peter’s first epistle to the “elect exiles,” he explains that we, through Christ, have been given an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:1, 4). Directly after this gospel-rich language, he says that we will be “grieved by various trials” (v. 6). Way to be a downer, Peter.
Though we have been given an inheritance kept in Heaven for us, we are still going to suffer through trials in this life. And these trials, Peter explains, are given to us by God to test the authenticity of our faith. “You have been grieved by various trials,” the apostle writes, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vv. 6–7).
The reason we trudge through trials is not meaningless. We experience trials so that we may show our faith to be legitimate. If our faith crumbles under the test of trials, it may result in the revelation that we don’t have true, biblical faith.
Peter compares our faith to precious metals, with our faith being “more precious than gold” (v. 7). When gold is put under flames, it is refined. It shows itself to be just that—gold. Likewise, when our faith is tested by trials and comes through the refining process still intact, it shows itself clearly to be genuine faith!
When our trial with Piper happened, our faith, by the grace of God, never wavered. We didn’t doubt his promises or his character. We know he is good in all things. And that is only because God held us together. However, I can’t say we never had those moments of wondering, “Why is this happening?” That question is a natural response to any trial—even for Christians. But more than anything, this trial brought greater assurance of God’s special care for my wife and me. He pulled us through this trial to not only test the authenticity of our faith but also in the end to show us our faith is real. Our eyes remained fixated on the goodness of God even amidst our trial. And that’s not our doing, but his. He’s the reason our faith didn’t wander or crumble.
It is imperative for every Christian to understand that trials will come—not if, but when. In whatever form they come, trials are inevitable, certainly for those who “desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:12). Christian, don’t despise your trial, for it will reveal where your faith stands.
TRIALS PRODUCE STEADFASTNESS
Normally we don’t look at trials as something that will have any positive effect. It’s easy to focus solely on the negative side of trials. But if we remember what James says, we will know that trials have many positive aspects.
James begins by saying that trials “produce steadfastness” (1:2). Other translations use the words endurance or perseverance. The evangelical church in North America is bombarded with prosperity gospel theology, so it is understandable that we, as Western Christians, are so skittish when it comes to trials. Many times, mistakenly so, we believe trials are a sign of God’s anger or disappointment. Nothing could be further from the truth!
To be sure, God may discipline us in the form of a trial, but even then we should know he is disciplining us because we are his children, whom he loves dearly. Whatever our trial is, we can know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God is using the trial to push our faith forward, to help it endure, to preserve it.
To be sure, God may discipline us in the form of a trial, but even then we should know he is disciplining us because we are his children, whom he loves dearly.
From the moment Piper vomited at daycare to the last day in the hospital, we knew God was using this trial in some way to strengthen our faith, to preserve it for his glory. We didn’t enjoy our trial—God doesn’t ask us to enjoy it—but we believed it was ultimately for our good and his glory. In other words, the joy we are to have is not that we experienced our trial, but that God is using our trial to conform us to Jesus. I believe our faith is more durable now because we went through this. Once again, that’s not because we’re so great but because God is.
Don’t miss this, believer. We have been saved by grace (Eph. 2:8) and God is the one who preserves our saving faith (Rom. 8:30), and does so many times through the avenue of trials. We don’t see faith endure too many times through unbridled success and easy living. Rather, we see the faith of Christians endure steadily in the midst of trials. Christian, don’t despise your trials, for they cause your faith to grow.
TRIALS MAKE US MORE LIKE JESUS
At the end of the day, we must not despise our trials, for they make us more like Jesus. This is the end goal: to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29). Everything that happens to us in this life is used by God to mold us more into the image of his Son. Our trials are the avenue to our glorification one day. Remember the example of Jesus in Philippians 2, the great chapter on his humility. Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
Through his life and death on the cross, Jesus experienced the ultimate trial. “Therefore,” Paul explained further, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9–11). Jesus’s trial on earth is the very path that led to his exaltation in heaven.
In the same vein, our trials will, one day sooner than we realize, lead to our glorification, our exaltation, our glorious “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us]” (1 Pet. 1:4). Therefore, Christian, keep your eyes fixated on the glories of heaven. Heavenly glory won’t take the pain of trials away, but it will make them worth it.
Because Jesus is worth it.