Trials as friends? Not the usual moniker we are likely to hang on these pesky invaders! Yet trials are a vital part of the Christian life and we are encouraged to welcome them as friends that they might do their work and prove our faith sincere…
The Friendship of Trials (An Essay)
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts. For the man who doubts is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from the Lord, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn. (James 1:2-8, J.B. Phillips)
According to James, I’d better rouse the welcoming committee. I’ve got more friends than I imagined and they keep dropping by uninvited. In fact, my life is getting downright crowded and these friends of mine have a voracious appetite. Oh, it’s not that I’m in any danger of running low on milk, bread, or any other staple. These guys subsist on a steady diet of nerves. And it seems to me that some of them have been around an awfully long time. Of course, these “friends” I’m alluding to are trials. Can you relate?
We can only assume, as followers of Christ, that these trials are custom-made for us and each has a divine commission to teach and bring about in us something of eternal importance. If we are to welcome them as friends this must be so. But I admit to it being an unnatural mind set! At first blush, they certainly look and feel more like intruders than friends. And stubborn! There’s no quit in them—not until they’ve completed their assignment in full.
James gives us insight into the nature of this assignment of theirs and it appears twofold: to test our faith and to produce endurance.
It is important to realize that apart from the trials our loving Father sends we have no means in and of ourselves to accurately gauge the faith we at times so confidently profess. We might believe our faith is robust, that we have taken God at His word at every turn and are growing steadily in our convictions concerning His character. That more and more we are able to trust in His faithfulness in all things and that our obedience to Christ is ever increasing. But how in the world would we know if all this were true unless it were tested and proven to be genuine? Apart from trials we wouldn’t know. And as Jesus Himself is true He is pleased to lead us into all truth—including the truth about the tensile strength of our own supposed convictions.