October 22, 2008

Surprised by Trial

2008 1530 page29 capT LEAST ONCE A WEEK SOME STUDENT WILL COLLAPSE INTO MY COMFY office chair and complain, earnestly and with some sense of surprise, that they are having yet another test. They came here for an education, they say, but wow, all these tests get in the way! This lament is not confined to campus life. When was the last time you recall someone animatedly telling you that their life’s been just one challenge after another? Now and then, it seems we all need to be reminded that tests are not just speed bumps on the path of life, but actually part of the learning process, integral to our developing into the person God calls us to be.
Evangelist Chuck Swindoll writes: “I need to underscore a foundational fact: God’s goal is not to make sure you’re happy. No matter how hard it is for you to believe this, it’s time to do so. Life is not about your being comfortable and happy and successful and pain free. It’s about becoming the man or woman God has called you to be. . . . Life is not about you! It’s about God.”1
Words worth pondering.
2008 1530 page29Although we know intellectually that trials are part of the Christian life, we are consistently surprised by them, as if they were errantly interjected into an otherwise orderly and comfortable life plan. The apostle Peter didn’t think so, and counseled believers to expect them: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
And Ellen White didn’t think so. A woman whose own story was one of near-constant adversity, she counseled early Adventists to expect trials: “Many who sincerely consecrate their lives to God’s service are surprised and disappointed to find themselves, as never before, confronted by obstacles and beset by trials and perplexities. . . . Like Israel of old they question, ‘If God is leading us, why do all these things come upon us?’
“It is because God is leading them that these things come upon them. Trials and obstacles are the Lord’s chosen methods of discipline and His appointed conditions of success. He who reads the hearts of men knows their characters better than they themselves know them. . . . In His providence He brings . . . persons into different positions and varied circumstances that they may discover in their character the defects which have been concealed from their own knowledge. He gives them opportunity to correct these defects and to fit themselves for His service. Often He permits the fires of affliction to assail them that they may be purified.
“The fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus sees in us something precious which He desires to develop. . . . He does not cast worthless stones into His furnace. It is valuable ore that He refines. . . .
“In the full light of day, and in hearing of the music of other voices, the caged bird will not sing the song that his master seeks to teach him. He learns a snatch of this, a trill of that, but never a separate and entire melody. But the master covers the cage, and places it where the bird will listen to the one song he is to sing. In the dark, he tries and tries again to sing that song until it is learned, and he breaks forth in perfect melody. Then the bird is brought forth, and ever after he can sing that song in the light. Thus God deals with His children. He has a song to teach us, and when we have learned it amid the shadows of affliction we can sing it ever afterward.”2
So take heart, fellow learner. Life’s lessons may be tough, but the Teacher guarantees you can pass every test.
1See Charles R. Swindoll, “It’s Not About You,” www.insight.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=760/&news_iv_ctrl=1961.
2Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 470-472.
Valerie N. Phillips is the associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.