Many think once they accept Jesus as their Savior that it’s smooth sailing into the Kingdom of God. Not true. Scriptures indicate that all people have trials – the just and the unjust. Sometimes we bring trials upon ourselves. Sometimes we do everything we are supposed to do and trials come anyway.
James 1:1-3 tells us we will have trials. It goes so far as to say we should consider it joy because trials test our faith and help us develop perseverance. Now I must admit I have not reached the plateau of spiritual growth where I’ve come to consider my trials a joy. However I think it helps to focus on something other than our circumstances. It helps to focus on Jesus. As the old song goes:
Turn your eyes on Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
One of the best ways to focus on Jesus is through prayer. So my system of dealing with trials is to “pray through them.” Here’s how…
Tell God How We Feel
We can be totally honest with God about how we feel. He doesn’t mind if we dump our anger, frustration, disappointment, and grief on him. However, this can’t be our only communication with God. No one likes one continuous pity party – not even God.
Ask for Specifics
There’s nothing wrong with pleading for deliverance, but let’s not forget some other specifics such as asking for strength, guidance, wisdom and peace or even that we learn what we need to learn from a situation quickly. However, our ultimate goal is to align our will to God’s, not talk him into giving us what we want.
No matter what our circumstance we should praise God (Psalm 97:1-7). We may be having a difficult time but God is still our creator, sustainer, redeemer, comforter, friend, and ruler. He is loving, kind, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. As we focus on how great God is our problems become smaller.
We can always find something to be grateful for. Like the old adage, “I complained because I had no shoes then I met a man who had no feet.” Focus on what we have, not what we lack, and be thankful for it. We can thank God for his creation, family, friends, food, life, music, sight, hearing, health, peace, understanding, laughter, home – the list goes on and on and on.
In the midst of severe trials it’s difficult to remember all the wonderful things God has done for us in the past. Sometimes we have to ask God to bring those to mind. Remembering the many answered prayers and God’s faithfulness gives us perspective. One major problem with the Israelites was they continually forgot how God delivered them to freedom and brought them through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 5:15; 8:2). The minute things didn’t go their way they chose to grumble instead of remembering all God had done for them.
Pray for Others
A difficult concept to grasp is that we are not the center of the universe. Other people are going through hardships too. We need to pray for them.
Pray for God’s Will to Be Done
Through all our trials we must want God’s will to be done, not ours. God’s will might not be our will. Can we live with that and love God anyway? It’s not wrong to make our wishes known but our lives are in God’s loving hands. Do we trust him to do what’s best even though it might not be what we want? As we grow in our relationship with God we learn more fully that he truly loves us. When we realize God is compassionate, loving, and kind, we actually want to surrender our will to his, even though it may hurt. Jesus asked, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” but surrendered His will to God’s. “Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39).”
God never promised us a problem free existence. Sometimes God takes away a trial and sometimes he doesn’t. Paul prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be removed but God didn’t remove it (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Was it difficult for Paul? Yes, but Paul conceded that God’s greatness and power was made perfect in his weakness. So Paul was willing to delight in his hardships so God could be glorified. That’s almost as difficult for me to grasp as counting my trials as joy.
However, ultimately any trial is really more about God’s greatness being manifest than our discomfort being assuaged. That’s why we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) – especially when we are going through a trial!