by C. W. Naylor

Part 1 of 2

Daniel said, "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried" (chapter 12:10). All Christians are glad that they are purified and made white, but when it comes to being tried, that is a very different thing. They shrink from the very word. Their trials are to them as a nightmare from which they would gladly escape. But trials are only a part of God's process of preparing us for heaven, and they are as needful to us as is the blessing, in order that we may be prepared for our glorious eternal habitation.

The peaceful quiet waters soon lose their freshness and become stagnant; the clearness is soon gone, and they are filled with germs. Soon a green scum covers the top, and they become foul and odorous. Quiet air becomes stagnant. The smoke, the dust, the odors, and the miasma rising from swamps and bogs would soon render quiet air unfit for breathing, and instead of being a life-giving tonic, it would become a life-destroying poison. God has arranged the operation of natural forces so that there is unceasing motion. The warm air rises, the cold air falls. The gentle breezes blow, and swell into great gales and terrible hurricanes. These latter may be very destructive in their action, but they work out a good by purifying the air. They scatter the noxious poisons far and wide, and carry in pure air to take the place of these. The waters of the sea are driven and tossed and dashed against the rocks. The sea is ever restless. Its waves are never still. No matter how calm the day, the ripples are ever breaking upon the shore. Were it not for motion, for the storms and currents, the whole ocean would become as stagnant as a pond. The same thing is true in a large measure in our lives. The storms and obstacles all work our for out good if we meet them as we should. Through them our lives are enriched and ennobled and developed. They are blessings to us, though they may seem to be blessings very much disguised.

Sources of Trials

Many trials are only the natural result of circumstances. Sometimes circumstances are in our favor, and work for our happiness, peace, and contentment. Sometimes we have smooth sailing, and everything goes pleasantly. We are courageous and confident and rejoicing. The sun shines brightly out of a cloudless sky, and every prospect seems fair. But this does not always last. Sooner or later the clouds must come and the storm-winds beat upon us. We must have the rough weather as well as the pleasant, the storm as well as the calm. The sunshine and the calm are very needful in life, and they work out a definite purpose; but the storms and the rain and the wind are likewise needed; they also fulfil their purpose. Trials will come; we cannot evade them. We cannot look ahead into the future; so we may plan and build up hopes, only to have our air-castles come crashing down around our heads. If we have set our hearts upon these things, we are likely to look very gloomily upon their wreck and to feel very bad over the result.

If we permit ourselves to give way and grieve over the failure of our plans and hopes, we may make ourselves and those around us miserable. Sometimes people let go their hold on God just because they do not get their way in things. They let disappointment so discourage them that they just give up trying to do right. That is acting like a spoiled child. If our plans and hopes fail, God will not fail. Sometimes it is a real blessing to us that they do fail; for God can plan far wiser for us than we can for ourselves, and we ourselves can act more wisely after we have failed than we did before. Never fret on account of disappointments. They grow rapidly under such treatment, both in size and in intensity.

Losses may come to us; our property may be swept away or burned up. If we have our hearts set upon our possessions, this may touch a tender spot, and we may let it darken our lives and make us morose and dissatisfied. Poverty may come and the many difficulties incident thereto. How greatly such things may try us will depend upon how much we rebel against the circumstances or how easily we submit to and adapt ourselves to the inevitable. How greatly we are affected by our trials depends on how much we open our hearts to them and encourage them.

Sickness may lay its heavy hand upon us or our loved ones, and try every fiber of our being. It may play upon the chords of pain a threnody that thrills with exquisite torture, or it may fire our blood with fever until the sparkle has gone from the eye and the glow of health from the cheek, or it may bind us in chains helplessly captive. Death may come and take those dear by the ties of nature or friendship and leave sorrow and grief to be our companions. These things try the soul, but they must be borne. We cannot escape such things, for they are the common heritage of those who dwell in the tabernacles of clay. They belong to mortality and to the mutable things of time.

There are trials that come to us as the result of the acts or attitude of others. How few are man's kindnesses to man! How great his inhumanity! How much of the human distress is needless and comes only by the inconsiderate or evil acts of others! Christ said that we should not marvel if the world should hate us. Neither should we marvel if it should act out its hatred in malicious persecution. Our Lord has told us that offenses must come. To be a Christian means to be a target for the world's hatred. We can count this a part of our heritage. Sometimes we shall have cruel mockings and have our names cast out as evil. We cannot endure these things without some sense of pain. How much we suffer under them will depend on how we meet them. If we praise God and go resolutely on our way, strength will be given us, and we shall overcome, and instead of hindering us, persecution will bring us rich treasures of grace and blessing.

Sometimes we may be tried over what others do when they have no thought or intention of causing us a trial, and perhaps are wholly ignorant that they are causing us to be tried. Very often people allow themselves to be tried when things need not be a trial if they will hold the right attitude toward the supposed offender. We can let ourselves be tried over trifles if we will, when if we would act as a real man or woman, we could pass over them quite easily and do it joyously and not suffer to amount to anything. The trouble with so many is that they are like petulant children, who are hurt or displeased at almost anything. If someone has really done something on purpose to try you, you should not give him the satisfaction of knowing that it hurt. Keep the hurt out of sight. Hide it away and over come it, and, if possible, let it be known to none but God. Bear with meekness what happens. Pray for your persecutors. That is the surest way to keep God in your own heart. "Father, forgive them," is the plea that takes the sting out of persecution.

Some trials come directly from Satan. For some reason we are left liable to his attacks. He attacked Job, destroyed his children, his possessions, and his health. God could shut him clear way from the world, just as he has shut him away from heaven, if he chose. But for some purpose he sees fit to let us be exposed to his attacks here. Many persons feel like a little boy who once said: "Mother, I wish God would kill the devil. Why doesn't he do it? I would if I were big enough."

Satan is limited in his work against us, and God is ever on our part, so that he can never go beyond God's will for us, so long as we leave ourselves in God's hands and rely upon him for the needed help. God does see fit sometimes to let him try us severely, but there never need be any cause for despair. God will not suffer us to be tempted more than we are able to bear. If Satan makes the temptation, God makes the way out. Sometimes he does not let us see the way out, even when he has prepared it, and we have to resist and endure the temptation until he sees that it has gone far enough. Then he shows us the way out. Sometimes he will take us and lift us clear out of it by his own hand. At other times he will put our adversary to flight. Our part is to endure and trust; God's part is to make the way of escape. We must endure patiently until our deliverance comes.

Sometimes God himself tries or proves us. "I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried" (Zechariah 13:9). The purpose of God's trying us is often that we may know ourselves. If we become self-sufficient, or go to rejoicing in our own works, he will likely send upon us or permit to come upon us something that will bring us to know our insufficiency and need of help from him. Danger is often the only thing that can help us to know our own weakness; so God often lets a danger come in order to bring us to our senses. We should not let such a thing discourage us, but get the lesson that our strength is from him and that our best efforts, if merely of ourselves, can avail little. He who trusts in God has strength enough for his needs.

God sometimes tries us that we may know him better. He wants us to know just how dearly he loves us, and how earnest is his care for us, and how faithful he is to us; and so he lets every hope and resource fail us and distress fall upon us. When everything fails, and we turn to him, how real is his help! how sweet is his comfort! If, however, when we find ourselves in such a situation, we despair and give up, we lose the blessedness that he was preparing us for. We grieve his loving heart and cheat ourselves. Hold fast and wait for him to work out his purpose. He afflicts only to heal. He grieves only to turn the grief to rejoicing, and to give greater rejoicing than could come through any other means. Our trials are the root upon which our blessings grow. These roots may be bitter, but the fruit is sure to be sweet if we patiently wait for its maturing. Too many want the fruits of joy, but are not willing to have the trial. Many choice fruits grow on thorny trees, and he who will gather the fruit may expect to be pricked now and then by the thorns.

But the trials that are hardest to bear are the ones we bring upon ourselves. Many people suffer as a result of their own indiscretion. They act unwisely or unbecomingly, and people buffet them for their faults. They are ridiculed or condemned; their names are on the tongue of the gossip, and they have no one to blame but themselves. If we do not act wisely or worthily, we need not expect to have the confidence and esteem of others. If we are buffeted for our faults, the only Christian thing to do is to endure with meekness and patience and try to do better next time. This is one kind of trial that is always bitter medicine. It brings no joy. The best thing we can do is to take our bitter medicine and make no wry faces about it.

We sometimes do things or say things that bring heaviness upon us. We heap blame and condemnation upon ourselves. We feel regret and sorrow, and cannot get done chiding ourselves. How many of these self-made trials could be avoided if we would be careful always to watch ourselves and to think of the outcome before we speak or act. When we have brought such a trial upon ourselves, we can only brace up and endure it manfully. We need to learn well our lesson, but we need not let ourselves be crushed under it. Do not let yourself brood over it. Brooding will not help matters. Resolve to do better next time and ask God to help you. Rise above the trial. If you have learned your lesson, God will help you out. He does not want to bruise you over it. He may chasten you sorely , but he will do it for your profit, not for your destruction.

Effects on the Sensibilities

The effect of trials on our sensibilities is often very great. Our feelings become deeply involved, and this is what makes trials hard to bear. Our feelings respond to them, and sometimes the result is great distress. If we permit these feelings to have their way, we may suffer a great deal in a trial. Some let their feelings have full freedom of action at such a time, and therefore the trial affects them powerfully. It is within our power to limit our feelings to a very great extent. We can give way to them and greatly increase them, or we can set ourselves resolutely to modify and control them, and we shall be able to do it, and thereby greatly lessen the effect of the trial upon our sensibilities. Keep your mind off your troubles. Resolve to be happy in spite of them. Think of things that will make you feel better. Take hold of yourself and say: "Here! I will not feel this way. I will control myself and not give way to my emotions." Get your mind busy on other things. Get your hands busy with labor. Do not let your trials get too close to you. Do not make friends of them. No matter how beautiful may be the scenery around you , you can hold a small, ugly object before your eyes and hid all the beauty, and see nothing but the object at which you gaze. So it is with our trials. If we let them hold our attention, if we look at them all the time, they will shut out all the beauties of life about us, and will come to be the greatest things in our lives, even though in reality they may be very small and insignificant things. There are people who allow their minds to be taken up largely by their trials. They are continually thinking over them and worrying over them. Their faces are clouded by them. They sigh and groan. When they testify, it is to tell what a hard, rough path they have been having. In such cases, the person is making his own hard paths.

Trials need not be allowed to take the sweetness out of life; they need not be allowed to shut out all the light and beauty of life. God does not intend that they shall. Paul speaks of being "exceedingly joyful" in all his tribulations. He had plenty of tribulations, but he met them like a man, and instead of letting them get him down, he got his feet upon them and mastered them. The first step in mastering a trial is to master yourself. Gain control of your feelings. I do not say that you can feel as you will, but you can prevent yourself from feeling as bad as you would feel if you would give way to your feelings. Do not act like a hurt child and go around trying to get people to sympathize with you. Do not waste any time pitying yourself. Act like a full-grown man or woman. Act as if you had some courage and fortitude. Face the situation manfully. You can do it if you will. Summon your resolution. Stand your ground against these things. Look to God and expect his help. You can overcome just as easily as others do if you will.

What Makes Them Hard to Bear

Giving way to our feelings and letting them have their way is not the only thing that makes trials hard to bear. It is one of the chief things, but there are other things that add to the hardness of bearing trials. First, there is love of ease, and unwillingness to suffer. The flesh naturally loves an easy time. It seeks pleasure and self-gratification. Anything that goes contrary to such is unpleasant to it, and it is likely to rebel against it. If we give the flesh its way, trials will be very hard for us. No matter what trials may come, it will make us shrink from them and rebel against them. Life has both its bitter and its sweet. We need not always expect to have the sweet alone. We cannot have the capacity to enjoy without also having the capacity to suffer. Suffering is just as needful in our lives as enjoyment, and sometimes serves an even better purpose. If we are unwilling to suffer and in consequence begin to kick against the goads, we shall soon find ourselves wounded, and our sufferings increased. This unwillingness to suffer keeps many people out of the pleasure which God would give them if they would only let him give them the preparation to receive it. But they draw back. They are not willing to suffer. When trials come, they rebel against them.

"We count them happy which endure" (James 5:11). But the class of people I am describing cannot look upon endurance in this light. There is no happiness in it to them. There is no pleasantness to them. No matter what good comes to them through trials, they want it some other way. But trials will come anyway. They cannot escape them. The only thing they will do by rebelling will be to increase their suffering in the trials and prevent themselves from getting the blessedness out of them. We ought to be willing to suffer when it is God's will for us to suffer, or when he sees it is necessary for us to suffer. Our Master drank the cup of suffering even though it was bitter. Are we better than he? Shall we refuse to go by the path that led him to glory?

Another thing that makes trials hard to bear is fear of being overcome by them. When trials come to some, the first thing they think of is, "Shall I be able to endure them? Shall I be overcome in it?" They are all the time fearing and worrying, lest they should not be able to go through it. This fear itself is a source of weakness. It also increases the suffering that results from trials. When you add fear to your trials, you double their size and weight. Why should you fear? Is not God upon his throne? Is he not watching over your life? Does he not know just how much you can endure? Will he let the fire be too hot? Will he let distress be too great? Will he fail you in anything? He says, "Fear not, for I am with thee." If you are disposed to fear your trials, a good thing to do is to collect a large number of the promises of God's help from the Bible. Write them down on a piece of paper, and keep them handy, and when you see a trial coming or realize that it is already upon you, and your fears begin to arise, get your list of promises and begin reading them over. Read them carefully and thoughtfully. Read them as being true. Remember that God stands back of each of them, and stands back of it to make it true for you. The trouble is that when people get to viewing their trials, they keep looking at their trials and not looking to God. They do not look at the promises. They forget all about them. And so the more they fear, the more troubled they become. There are a thousand promises that apply to your case. There are a thousand promises that meet your daily need, and not one of all those promises will fail.

Another thing that makes trials hard to bear is unbelief. God's promises will amount to nothing for us unless we believe them and appropriate them unto ourselves. They are true for us whether we believe them or not, but they do not become effective for us until we believe them. If you do not believe that God will help bear your trials, then you must take the whole weight of them upon yourself. If you do not believe that he will give you victory in them, then you must fight through to victory in your own strength. If you do not believe that victory is to be the outcome for you, your belief will be a source of weakness to you, so that you will not have the confidence that you need to carry you through. Unbelief is your greatest enemy. Unbelief will cloud your whole sky and shut out the sunlight, and will close the channel of God's grace, so that it cannot be supplied to meet your needs. Unbelief will darken your mind and your heart. It will whisper in your ears that the situation is hopeless, that it is of no use to try. Unbelief is Satan's strongest ally. Shut your heart to it, and believe with all your strength that God is true and that God is true to you. This is only asserting the truth; there is no make-believe about it. His trueness is just as real as your existence. You may have his help if you will believe, but if you will still abide in unbelief, you must fight your battles and get out the easiest way you can. And that easiest way will often be a hard one. How much better to believe God and take his way and his help!

Another thing that makes our trials hard to bear is struggling to escape from them. The question with so many when they are in trial is: "How can I get out of this? How can I overcome it? How can I get to the end of it?" They will take almost any way out of it, just so they get out quick. The easiest way out is not always the best way out. Trying to get out in what seems to be the easiest way oftentimes gets us in the deeper, and makes the trial the more bitter. The only safe way is to submit to God and let him bring us through in the way that he sees fit. He knows the best way. He knows just what we can endure. He knows just what is needed. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows how we are going to get through it. He knows what the outcome will be and what a blessing he has in store for us at the end of the trial. But if we try to get out of the trial without passing through it, we are sure to miss the blessing in the end. It is the blessing that God wants us to have and that is what we need. If you struggle out of the trial without getting the lesson and the blessing, God may have to let it come again. He may have to let it be repeated again and again, until you submit to his will and have wrought in you the thing that is needful. You have seen a child with a splinter in its finger. When someone would go to pick it out, the child would jump and jerk and scream as though being dreadfully hurt, when probably the affected part had not been touched. Some act in this way toward God. It only hinders him and only hinders you. Hold still. If there is a splinter that must be picked out of your finger, let him have his way about it. Hold still until he finishes the operation. If you do not, you will only make it hurt the more.

Do not meet your trials with fear. Meet them courageously. Do not dread them. Keep confident in God. Do not rebel against them. Submit yourself to the Lord. He will make all things work together for good to you.

How Faith Sustains in Trial

We are told that we stand by faith. Faith is the one thing that can sustain us through every peril and through every difficulty. I once stood upon the shore when the waves were dashing wildly against the rocks. A considerable distance from the shore I saw two objects rising and falling upon the waves, but as I kept gazing at them, I observed a difference in their behavior. I soon saw that, while both were being tossed by the waves, one was coming nearer me. It was being driven in toward land, while the other remain in its position. One was a floating log; the other was a buoy. Ever wave drove the log nearer the shore, and I watched it until it was dashed against the rocks. The buoy still held its position. What was the difference between the two? The buoy was anchored; the log was not. The iron cable of the buoy took fast hold upon the bottom and held, no matter how the storm raged; but the unanchored log was at the mercy of every wind and every wave. Which object represents us depends upon our faith. If our faith is anchored in God, we are like the buoy which, though tossed by the waves, though beaten by the storms, yet holds its position and cannot be moved away. If we are not anchored by faith in God, we are like the log, and it will be no wonder indeed if we are dashed upon the rocks.

The seaweed floats up on the surface of the water. It too is beaten by the storm and tossed by the waves, but it keep its place; for down beneath the waves it has a sure grounding - by strong roots anchored to a rock. The storms may beat, the winds may blow, the waves may roll, but it holds fast, because it is fastened upon the rock. So God would have us rooted in him through faith. This faith will sustain us and hold us in our place in the wildest storms or the bitterest trial. Balance the trial by trust. As the trial increases, increase trust. The harder the trial comes upon us, the harder we should lean upon the Lord. He will sustain you if you trust, but he cannot sustain you unless you do. He may be ever so willing to help you, but if you do not trust him, you do not give him the opportunity to help you.

We are not likely to be tried as hard as Job was. In fact, if we will compare our trials with his, we shall often feel ashamed to call them trials. Though Job was tempted to the limit and tried to the utmost, he was fully determined that his conduct should be righteous, and that not simply for a little while. Hear his expression of his determination: "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God in my nostrils; my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live" (Job 27:3-6). Hear his testimony: "My foot has held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (chapter 23:11,12). Through all his trials and afflictions, he stood steadfast and unmovable, glorifying God even when he could not pierce the darkness ahead of him, and when he could not understand the present, and when the past was unexplained and unexplainable. When his wife despaired, and his friends united in condemning him, still he held fast his integrity. His decision was not simply to hold on a little while and see if things would change. No, he intended to go through to the end, no matter what came. His decision was to be steadfast as long as he lived. Death was the only limit that he put upon his faithfulness. He might not be able to understand, but he would trust and keep true anyway. He might suffer, but he would not rebel. If he could not understand God's ways, he could understand his duty, and he would do his duty, regardless of what happened. What a lesson of faithfulness and steadfastness! We ought to be ashamed to let the few little trials that we have weaken our decision to serve the Lord and be true at any cost. What have we to endure compared with what he had? Let us be steadfast, therefore, and keep right on, knowing that our God is our helper and that he will never fail us.

Different Kinds of Trials

Some trials test us in one way and some in another. Some test our courage. Satan sometimes tries to frighten us by making a great show of threatening. Sometimes he makes things look very dark. He whispers to us that we shall surely be overwhelmed. If we but have courage to meet these, we shall be able to overcome them. Often we have but to face them boldly in order to chase them off the ground and to stand victorious on the field of battle. Other trials test our faith. When sickness or disease take hold of us, it is then that faith is tested. When the adversary tries to bring doubts in our minds about God's faithfulness or the truth of his Word, and the faithfulness of his people, then faith is the weapon that we need to use to overcome him.

There are trials that test our loyalty. We are brought face to face with the question whether we will be loyal to God and his truth, or whether we will take some seemingly easier way and compromise his truth for the sake of getting off easier ourselves. We are often put in a position where our loyalty is tested, where we have to stand right by the truth without deviating from it in the slightest degree, no matter what comes. Sometimes we must make a choice between Christ and our friends. The question is then one of loyalty. To whom shall we be true, Christ or our friends? To whom shall we submit ourselves, and whom shall we obey? He has said, "Be thou faithful unto death." Shall we do it? Shall we do it no matter what it means nor how long a struggle it means? The battle is half won when we are fully decided to stand loyal whatever comes. Battles of this sort may be decided before we enter into them, and then we have only the fighting to do. The result is certain. The old saying, "Well begun is half done," is certainly true in the Christian life, especially when it comes to the matter of being decided to do the right and stand loyally by the truth whatever comes. [ End of Part 1 of 2 ]

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