God’s purpose with our trials, in stark contrast to that of the devil, is to make us better. Whereas Satan’s goal is to use our difficulties to destroy us, our heavenly Father wants to use them to purify us. Whether God is honored or dishonored in our trials, then, is determined by our response to our challenges. We can work with God or we can resist the work He is wanting to accomplish in us.
As an example of what this may look like in practical terms, say you have been wronged by a fellow believer. You have confronted your brother about the matter but he is not repentant, and all you are left with is pain and disappointment. If this situation creates ongoing resentment and bitterness in your heart; if it causes you to try to get back at the person who hurt you; to get angry at God; or to lose hope altogether, then the trial has become something that’s producing sin in your life.
You can, however, choose to respond the way that the Bible tells you to: you can forgive your brother (Matthew 18:21-22), continue to pray for him (Luke 6:28), leave it up to God to see that justice is done (Romans 12:19), and believe and hope that Christian love will win in the end (1 Corinthians 13:7). If you do, your trial – the same trial – will become something that strengthens your faith in God and His ability to defend you; something that builds you up and draws you closer to the Lord.
To surrender resentment and hurt to God can be a grueling hard process for sure, especially when you find yourself in a situation where you’re not at fault and you’re reaping what someone else has sowed. It’s hard because what you’re experiencing isn’t fair. God is a God of justice and order, and since we’re created in His image, it’s only natural that we’re going to feel angry when sinned against. Keep in mind that Jesus Himself was angry and grieved at unrighteousness (Mark 3:5).
What’s interesting to note is that the Bible says to, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26 ESV). In other words, anger in and of itself isn’t wrong; what Scripture warns against is prolonged resentment.
It’s when we hold on to anger that we give the devil an opportunity (verse 27). We give him an opportunity to make our hearts hard toward God and to sow increasingly more dissension between us and the person who wronged us. When things aren’t brought out into the light and dealt with; when forgiveness doesn’t take place and reconciliation doesn’t happen, that’s when the enemy comes and exploits the situation. And when he does, friendships, marriages, families, and churches are easily destroyed as a result. No wonder God says to guard against the root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15)!
It’s important to remember that our offender is not our real enemy. Our real enemy is the devil and his cohorts. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Again, it’s our response to our difficulties – and regardless of the nature of our trial – that is going to determine whether that trial becomes a temptation which hurts us or a test which ultimately refines us. As long as we respond correctly, even a painful experience set in motion by Satan to harm us can become a blessing when it helps us grow spiritually.
Of course, the key to making the best possible decisions in life is to walk in continuous obedience to God’s Word. Obedience is a beautiful thing. When you live obediently, you can have peace in any struggle. The peace may not come right away, but eventually it will. As the Bible promises, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Those that seek to live according to God’s precepts, putting their trust in Him and truly desiring to respond correctly to life’s trials, will be able to experience a sense of inner tranquility. They can know that they’re safe and secure in the Lord’s hands and that He will use their hardship for good. Simply put, when you walk in obedience, God is on your side!
What’s more, the Lord will always supply us with the wisdom we need to handle our challenges. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV).
Truly, all we need to do is ask; ask the Lord to give us discernment and to understand the lessons He wants us to teach us through our difficulties.
God has not left us alone. We don’t have to figure things out on our own. We have the guidance of the Word and of the Holy Spirit, and we can turn to mature, godly Christians for advice. We have everything we need to ensure that our trial becomes a test in which God is glorified rather than a temptation in which He is dishonored. It’s up to you and me to do the right thing.
The above article is a chapter from my upcoming book, “Life More Abundantly: Trading Your Good For God’s Best.”