Trials Are God’s Tools
How far is our heavenly Father willing to go to make us like his Son? In our previous posts, we saw from Romans 8:28-29 that God uses hardships to make us more like Jesus, and we considered the first two of seven specific ways God does so. We saw that the Lord uses hardships to enhance and deepen our relationship with him and to help us experience a measure of Christ’s sufferings.
Today we consider a third way, a way that requires humble self-examination. God wants to use our hardships to expose our remaining sin. Trials are God’s tools to help purify his people.
God’s Purifying Agenda
Listen to God’s perspective on the hardships of His people Israel:
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
What God saw in their hearts was a mixture of faith and unbelief. Thankfully, centuries later, God’s greater Son, Jesus—the true Israel—re-lived this desert temptation. Led by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus endured forty days of fasting and of satanic attack. Where God’s old covenant son Israel failed, God’s incarnate Son Jesus succeeded. By successfully enduring this temptation, he furthered his work of securing our salvation.
God leads us through adversity to uncover our remaining sin. When facing hardship, ask yourself these questions:
- Where is the Vinedresser pruning me (John 15)?
- What are the dead leaves that God is snipping away, even if painful at the time?
- Where is the Refiner heating me (1 Peter 1)?
- What are the impurities and dross that are surfacing because of this fire?
- What are the weaknesses in my spiritual foundation that these storms are revealing (Matthew 7)?
- Where are the leaks?
Ashley’s Marriage and Todd’s Job
Ashley learned these truths in the laboratory of a difficult marriage. Her husband left her. Abandoned, jilted, and forsaken, she struggled with depression and anger. Through Christ-centered counseling, Ashley was able to re-root her identity in God, to see herself afresh as his daughter, and to find him as her “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
As she prayed, meditated on God’s Word, and reflected on her marriage, God showed Ashley some ways she had contributed—not caused, of course, but contributed—to the breakup. With the Spirit’s help she was able to see and repent of her own sins—even the ones previously hidden—and to seek her husband’s forgiveness in several specific areas, despite his failure to reciprocate.
God did something similar in Todd’s life. His new supervisor at work proved to be critical, controlling, and demanding, despite the fact that Todd had worked at the company for over ten years. Todd was angry. It took several sessions of listening and entering into his world before I could address his heart issues. We were able to turn the corner by asking the question drawn from Romans 8:28-29, “What do you think God is trying to do through this job hardship to make you more like Jesus?”
With the Lord’s help, Todd admitted his anger. Ironically, he realized that his heart was every bit as critical, controlling, and demanding as his boss’ words. As Todd meditated on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, God convicted him of his failure to display these qualities at the office. Todd repented, sought God’s forgiveness, and asked his boss to forgive him for his bad attitude.
While the boss minimized the matter, God did not—by faith Todd was able to hear God’s affirming words, “well done, good and faithful servant.” The Lord also used his unkind supervisor to unveil to Todd some pockets of insubordination. Todd spent profitable time studying 1 Peter 2:13-25, Ephesians 6:5-8, and Romans 13:1-6, learning what God’s Word teaches about submitting to authorities, even those who mistreat us.
Could it be that God is using the hardship that you hate to expose the sin that he hates, so that you can repent and know the joy of forgiveness and of growing holiness?
The Rest of the Story
Join us for Part 5, where we learn that God wants to use our hardships to engage us more actively in the Body of Christ.
Join the Conversation
How has God used a hardship in your life to expose aspects of your remaining sin? In what ways has your suffering surfaced hidden sins, allowing you to know the joy of repentance and the freedom of forgiveness?