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Embrace the Trial – Part 3

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.

In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”

The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that ye, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may abound to EVERY good work” (emphasis added).

But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r
.”

Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.

I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.

The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.

Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.

“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.

This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10).  He counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord (v. 8). This is how he could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake: (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10b).

He had learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.

As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

Hope that is Based upon Truth

What gets you through the trials of life?  How do you weather the difficult, discouraging storms of life that often leave you in despair?  Often in life we feel as though we are dealt a bad hand and we struggle with the injustices of life.  We feel these are due to bad luck and sometimes we may even blame God for His part in our difficulties as if He does not love us.

In these times we feel so alone and discouraged, hopeless and full of despair because the world seems against us and God seems far from us.  These are the times in which we may lose hope and in turn “hope” that our luck will change even though we feel as though this “hope” is just a “hope and a prayer.”  In these times our hope is based upon our feelings and perceptions about life.  This is a dangerous place for us to be!  So do you just batten down the hatches and ride out the storm or is there another option?

The answer is that there is another option and it is found in God’s Word—the Bible!  God, the Creator of life has given us the guide book to life to show us His designed way to live a life of purpose and peace.  This is the life of knowing Him—not a life of religion but life because of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Unbelief causes us to look at God through our circumstances, and this creates hopelessness; but faith enables us to look at our circumstances through the reality of God and this gives us hope.”[i]

Instead of hoping that our luck will change let us, by faith, consider the “hope that is based upon Truth.”  Let’s consider the words of the “Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah—a man who knew great discouragement in life.  A man who experienced the world against him yet was able to live a faithful life of purpose and hope—a life that honored the Lord.  His hope was properly defined as confidence because it was based upon truth.  Let his words encourage you.  In Lamentations 3:21 he says, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.”

He says, “This is what I remind myself of—this is what I know to be true about my God, therefore I have hope or patient confidence!” Jeremiah reminds himself of the truths of God which he recounts in the following verses.  The truths of God, as they are recalled to mind, should bring us comfort as they reassure us of God’s faithfulness, His love, His mercy, His all-sufficiency, His grace…and the wonder of it all is that the list goes on and on.

What you know, and rely on, to be true about the Lord will transform your life!

Learn to preach God’s Word to yourself instead of listening to yourself.

The “Weeping Prophet” goes on to say, “it is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. ” (Lamentations 3:22)

Jeremiah reminds himself of God’s mercy and compassion.  The trials of life, as fires of affliction, are meant to chasten and cleanse us not to consume us. They are meant to direct not destroy.  Although sometimes we feel the only way we’ll make it out is through death but the divine purpose of God is to purge us in order to prove the reality of our faith.  Keep in mind that because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) we deserve to be consumed by the fires of affliction, yet God in His tender mercy and grace takes us through these fires to bring us forth as gold.

Truth to remember: Our God is merciful and compassionate.

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:7)

The trials of life are the evidence of God’s faithful work in our lives to work in us His divine purpose of “conforming us into the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).  Never forget the truth that all of God’s actions toward us are actions of love as He lovingly seeks to turn us back into right fellowship with Himself and for those who have yet to receive Him as Lord and Savior, He seeks to win their souls to Him.

The LORD’s compassions never fail “they are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Although we at times come to the point of feeling like they have failed, yet the Lord is faithful.  He is faithful in being the living God who compassionately loves us.

The tender mercies or compassions of God “are new every morning” because God has an endless supply of mercy and we must learn to faithfully live each day as a new day.  It is because of God’s mercy that we have a new day to live for Him.

Truth to remember: Our God is faithful.

“The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24)

Jeremiah continues as he says, “The LORD is my portion” or the source of his strength and hope—his confidence.  Is it possible to use up this infinite source? When we are living in this truth, we can have patient confidence that God is in control and what He does is right.  This is where the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) comes from.  It literally surpasses human reasoning in its ability to relieve anxiety in our lives.  Isaiah 26:3 tells us that as we stay focused on the this Source—His Truths—He promises His “perfect peace” will be a precious reality to us.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

When we begin to realize that God is sufficient to meet every genuine need and at the same time that we lack this self-sufficiency, it should increase our dependence upon Him.  When we trust Him to be able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) is when we begin to live as He designed us to live—living a life of confidence in the Lord while enjoying the supernatural peace that only comes from the Giver of peace.

Truth to remember: Our God is ALL that we need.

“The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.” (Lamentations 3:25)

Finally we see the goodness of God.  Stop and think of all the ways that the Lord has been good to you.  Don’t forget to include that difficult times of life where God has drawn you closer to Himself by revealing to you an area of needed change.

Truth to remember:  Our God is good.

Remember that He is the God who loves to forgive.  Those areas that He reveals to us where change is needed—sin is usually the culprit.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” (Psalm 86:5)

Truth to remember: Our God is ALWAYS ready to forgive.

When you stop and consider these precious truths about the Lord do you feel your heart being lifted up? Do you begin to hear the “new song in [your] mouth, even praise unto [your] God” (Psalm 40:3)?  Confidently know the God of the Bible and enjoy the peace that only He can give.  Let Him give you peace in the storms as you rely on what you know to be true about Him. Allow the light of God’s Word to break through darkness and despair and reveal the stabilizing truths about Himself that He wants you to know and hold on to.

Trust in what the Bible says is true about the Lord.  Rely upon this transforming knowledge and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).


[i] Warren Wiersbe, “The Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament The Prophets”, p. 158