A 37-year-old church member named Wanda had died. She was a very popular and much-loved fixture in our church—a faithful member and teacher of children. Her early death was difficult.
As I preached her funeral, our then five-year-old son, Daren, and his 4-year-old sister, Julie, sat motionless, with their mom. They were near the front of the chapel and Wanda’s body lying in the casket, dressed in a beautiful gown, was in their full view. In the hushed silence, Daren whispered, “Why is Wanda sleeping?” to which Pat gave a quick, short answer, “Wanda is in heaven.”
Following the graveside committal, as we drove away from the cemetery, Daren asked, “Why are we leaving Wanda here?” Without thinking, I replied, “Oh, Wanda is not here; she is in heaven.” Immediately Daren said, “No, she isn’t. She is in that box!”
“Why?” is a difficult question for us to answer, and sometimes it is impossible.
It is not wrong to ask “Why?” if we can be content that it may not be answered in this lifetime. Even our Lord Jesus, in the darkness on the cross, cried out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus sensed a separation from God the Father He had never known. As He literally became sin for all men, the Father had to turn judicially from looking upon His Son.
So, what are the reasons for times of testing? Why does God allow trials and tribulations to come to His children? Is there a purpose for the pain?
1st Peter 1:6 reveals four of God’s principles in trials—the What. Then in verse 7 he shows four of God’s purposes for trials—the Why. Verses 6 and 7 read: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What are God’s Purposes for Trials?
1st to Prove Your Faith—“that the proof of your faith”
It is through difficult trials that your faith in God becomes visible. Faith is proven present and positive as a result of trials. While everything is smooth and tranquil in your life, it is easy to believe, trust and obey. But, when tragedy, testing and difficulties barge in like unwelcome guests, true faith will shine through.
This purpose of God helps answer questions of why things happen. When Abraham was called by God to offer his only son Isaac, as a sacrifice (Gen. 20), the Scripture reveals he obeyed. He may have wondered why God asked that of him, but he obeyed. James noted that when Abraham obeyed God, he was “justified by works…as faith was working with his works” (James 2:21). Abraham’s actions proved that his faith was in God—not in himself. How did Abraham’s faith shine out as genuine? It was through his difficult time of testing.
2nd to Refine Your Character—“being more precious than gold…even though tested by fire”
Trials are more precious than gold, because gold perishes, whereas the positive effects of trials are eternal. Most believers can testify that through the difficult times of their lives, God refined and changed them for the better. They came near to God, humbly repented of sin, became more faithful, more godly, more prayerful, and followed Him more closely, because of their trials.
Peter compared the cleansing effect of trials on our lives to the purifying effect of heat on gold. The jeweler heats the gold at a high temperature to remove its impurities, thus increasing its value. When he applies high heat to the raw gold, he is not destroying it, but purifying it—by removing the useless dross. This is what happens to Christians through trials.
When believers go through trials, they come out cleaner and more pure. Job, who is the prime example of patiently enduring hardship, said: “He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). There are no shortcuts—if you bypass the fire—your impurity remains.
3rd to Increase Your Praise—“may be found to result in praise and glory and honor”
One great result of hardships and trials is an increase in one’s praise of God. After enduring difficult times, it is common to hear severely tested believers give wondrous praise, thanks and glory to God for bringing them through.
The words, “praise and glory and honor” that God receives as a result of our times of testing mean, He gets our applause, all the fame, and the highest value we can render Him. Christians who have grown through difficulties rarely praise themselves—but are extravagant in their worship and admiration for their Savior.
4th to Enhance Your Anticipation—“at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
The final effect of trials will be an enhanced anticipation for the return of the Lord. “The revelation” means the appearing of Jesus Christ, when He comes to this earth for His own, and later to establish His kingdom.
Jesus promised: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). He is the One who promises no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev. 21:4); and no more tribulations—“in the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33.
Meanwhile, until He comes, stay faithful to Him through sunshine and shadow—good times and bad. Charles Spurgeon summed up God’s presence during trials when he said, “Though we cannot always trace His hand, we can always trust His heart.”