Be Thankful? You Can’t Be Serious!
Trials, Part 1
By Brittany Cady
Do you find it hard to give thanks in the middle of trials? This concept from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything, give thanks” has often been one of the most perplexing to me. Because I’ve walked through some major trials in the last seven years, I’ve had to struggle to make sense of this topic, that while perplexing is also clearly a command to us no matter what situation we find ourselves in.
In this chapter, Martha suggests a few principles about trials from scripture that are essential to understand if we desire to look at them rightly. The first is that “God is sovereign” (p 162). Although this concept is not new, for most of us it continues to be a struggle to fully understand and accept. We like to be in control, we like to make plans, and we like having a say in our own futures. However, since God is utterly sovereign, then we ought to submit to HIS will for us by God’s grace. Our trials force us to take a real look at ourselves and ask: do I trust Him and what He is doing? Or, do I think my own plans are better than His? God makes all our appointments with trials in His sovereignty. The question is: do we trust His hand and want His glory and purposes to reign more than our own ease and comfort? Are we thankful that He’s in control and knows what He’s doing, or do we secretly wish we had the reins?
Another principle Martha suggests is that when we become more like God, we are in fact also glorifying Him. She mentions that God’s tests have purpose in our lives. She also uses the analogy of the vinedresser who prunes his plants so that they will bear more fruit. An encouragement from this is that “the pain from God’s pruning will fade as the fruit of righteousness flowers for all to see,” (p 164). When we come out on the other side of a trial, there is real comfort in the sustaining love of God as we look back and see how He has brought us through, and what He has taught us.
Many people have spoken on the topic of suffering and trials, but the most profound for me has been Joni Eareckson Tada. She’s got a lot of experience! One passage that she has shared is from 1 Peter 4:1-2: “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” This verse is not saying that if we suffer we will be perfect. It is saying that our Master, Jesus Christ, when he was on earth, suffered in a way not one of us can even begin to imagine. Because of this, we should be prepared to suffer (not necessarily only physically), and in our suffering remember that God is using it to perfect us, to mature us, and to conform us into His image, so that we might live for the will of God.
I don’t know about you, but I want that! I want to live my time allotted on this earth for the will of God and not for the lusts of men, and the way to do that is to endure and learn from “momentary light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). Praise God that He doesn’t leave us where we are, but loves us enough to grow us, prune us, and make us more and more into the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ!
In conclusion, perhaps some of the words from “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” will encourage you on your pilgrim way, as they have encouraged me.
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain.
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.
Soul, then know thy full salvation.
Rise ov’r sin and fear and care.
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee!
Think what Father’s smiles are thine!
Think that Jesus died to win thee!
Child of Heaven, canst thou repine?
Next week I’ll share some of the practical ways I’ve learned to give thanks to God in the midst of trials.