I know you see us
I know you hear us
And you fill us when we pray
You understand us, see deep inside us
Translate tears and take them away
I’m a be honest, there are times
Your ways and method’s, I don’t understand
It seems so far, tell me who you are
I know your touch, but can’t see your plan
I’m lost in this thing called life,
Left to me now feels right
It’s your turn now, I wanna be where you are
- Kirk Franklin, Hide Me
Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. (John 11:4)
We have all felt like Martha. “Lord if you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.” The crushing sadness of an unexpected loss can prompt us to lose faith that God sees, let alone cares. How do we respond when we, or those closest to us, are seeking solutions to our soul’s deepest troubles? After all, Martha was correct; if Jesus had arrived sooner, her brother, Lazarus, would not have died. We live in a world where sometimes things go terribly wrong. Fortunately, the Scriptures speak with realness about trials like Martha’s, yours, and mine. If we apply biblical truths faithfully, when trials come, we will be more prepared to endure, and even excel, in the midst of them.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Life can be tough sometimes. Really tough. We go through hardships that shake us to the core and can cause us to question everything and tempt us to give up. The loss of a loved one, chronic illness, joblessness, broken relationship, a failed opportunity we thought God made clear was ours. Peter writes, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial” which makes us more expectant. The question is not “if” we will face trials, but “how” we will respond when we face them. Ever since sin corrupted the world, trials have become a part of life. Peter explains that this is nothing strange. His next words give us more insight: “when it comes upon you to test you.”
The words “trial” and “test” give us a clue about the nature of these challenges. In the United States’ legal system, trials determine guilt or innocence. In research, a trial is “a tryout or experiment to test quality, value, or usefulness.” Trials essentially are tests that prove or disprove authenticity and quality. They are trying circumstances that challenge us in some way and expose who or what we trust and rely on.
Tests also serve another purpose. They prepare us. Most students would never complete all the reading in the syllabus or finish the homework if they knew there would never be a test coming. The impending reality of an examination prompts students to study, and trains them in expectancy. God uses trials to equip us for work that we otherwise would not be qualified to do. Like the medical student who must master the tests that qualify them to practice medicine, tests train us to trust God more, forgive greater, pray harder and love deeper than we ever have before. The pain of trials has a purpose, which is why Peter admonishes us: But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. In the same way that the suffering of Christ revealed his glory, our suffering will produce glorious results in us which frees us to rejoice during hardship.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3)
The call for us to rejoice in suffering and trials is a fascinating emphasis in the Scriptures. The Apostle James, who was Jesus’ brother, also echoes this theme. Not only can we endure trials, but we can actually rejoice in them through the lens of faith. Though it may take time, prayer, and support from others, eventually we can see that trials produce something positive in our lives: the strengthening and confidence of our faith.
Though Martha doesn’t know it, Jesus has already planned what he will do through her brother Lazarus’ death. Understandably, Martha cannot see Jesus’ plan as she is overwhelmed by the pain and loss of her brother. She was unaware that Jesus not only empathizes, but involves himself in our trials.
So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:3-4)
After Martha exclaimed to Jesus “if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died,” Jesus assures her “Your brother will rise again.” Her faith at this point could only imagine that Jesus was referring to the end of the world when all would be raised. It was a faithful response but still limited by her experience. So Jesus now tests her faith:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
What had been head knowledge, the type of thin faith one acquires through merely learning about God, filled out into a robust belief that Jesus could bring her brother back. The power of Jesus meets her in her trial, canceling the funeral service to the shock and awe of everyone present.
Jesus reinterprets our hardships. They are not merely bad luck, karma, or chance. Our trials are training courses that reveal and strengthen our faith. They are meant to draw us closer and make us more like him. When we take a closer look at the life of Jesus, we see why experiencing trials is part of the process. The people he came to save rejected and crucified him. But he would later say that this tragedy had to happen for him to rescue us.
Jesus can reinterpret our trials because his resurrection reinterpreted his death. Triumph replaced tragedy. Victory replaced defeat. tweet
His resurrection power continues to redeem pain. He promised to do precisely that based on his own victory:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
This last habit enables us to develop the other six because, with perseverance, all things are possible. We can persevere with joy in the midst of trials because we know:
- Trials are temporary. Despite however we may feel, the pain is not permanent.
- Trials are tests. These tests reveal where we need to grow and help us to mature, too.
- Trials allow for triumph. Because Jesus triumphed, we can rest in his promise that no tribulation or trial will overwhelm us. He has already overcome them for us.
We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
- Have you had a “Martha-moment” when grief blocked out God’s goodness and faithfulness?
- How does the word “trial” help us gain perspective and peace in the midst of hardship?
- How does Jesus’ resurrection “reinterpret” his suffering? Yours?
- Take a moment to pray and thank God for who he is in the midst of your trial. Ask him for perspective to see how he can “reinterpret” it.
Written by Rasool Berry
Edited by Christina Utley