How Should We View Trials?
TESTS! Trials! Everyone has to face them. They may be caused by personality conflicts, economic difficulties, ill health, temptations, peer pressure to do wrong, persecution, challenges to our stand on neutrality or against idolatry, and many other things. Whatever form trials take, they often cause great anxiety. How can we handle them successfully? Is there any way that they benefit us?
The Best Support
King David of old lived a life full of trials, yet he died faithful. How was he able to endure? He pointed to the source of his strength when he said: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing.” Then he went on to say: “Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me; your rod and your staff are the things that comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1, 4) Yes, Jehovah is a source of boundless support. He shepherded David through some very dark times, and he is prepared to do the same for us when necessary.
How can we gain Jehovah’s support? The Bible points the way when it says: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good.” (Psalm 34:8) That is a warm invitation, but what does it mean? It is an encouragement to serve Jehovah and conform our lives fully to his will. Such a course means giving up some of our freedom, making sacrifices. In some cases, it can even lead to trials—persecution and suffering. Yet, those who wholeheartedly accept Jehovah’s invitation need never regret doing so. Jehovah will be very good to them. He will guide them and care for them spiritually. He will sustain them through trials by means of his Word, his holy spirit, and the Christian congregation. And he will eventually reward them with everlasting life.—Psalm 23:6; 25:9; Isaiah 30:21; Romans 15:5.
Those who make the life-altering decision to serve Jehovah and who stick to that decision find that Jehovah fulfills all his promises. That was the experience of the Israelites who followed Joshua into the Promised Land. Once they had crossed the Jordan, there were trials to be endured, battles to be fought, and hard lessons to be learned. But that generation proved to be more faithful than their fathers, who came out of Egypt and died in the wilderness. Hence, Jehovah supported the faithful ones, and concerning their state at the end of Joshua’s life, the Bible record says: “Jehovah gave them rest all around, according to everything that he had sworn to their forefathers . . . Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.” (Joshua 21:44, 45) That can also be our experience if we rely fully on Jehovah when under trial and at all other times.
What might weaken our confidence in Jehovah? Jesus pointed to one thing when he said: “No one can slave for two masters . . . You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matthew 6:24) If we trust in Jehovah, we will not look for security where most in the world seek it, in material things. Jesus counseled his followers: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other [necessary material] things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) A Christian who keeps a balanced view of material things and puts God’s Kingdom in first place in his life makes the right choice. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) It might cost him something, of course. He might make sacrifices in a material way. But he will reap many rewards. And Jehovah will support him.—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
What We Learn From Trials
Choosing to “taste and see that Jehovah is good” does not, of course, protect one from the vicissitudes of life; nor does it shelter us entirely from the attacks of Satan and his human agents. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) As a result, a Christian’s sincerity and determination may be tested. Why does Jehovah leave his worshipers exposed to such trials? The apostle Peter gave one reason when he wrote: “For a little while at present, if it must be, you have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6, 7) Yes, tests allow us to demonstrate the quality of our faith and our love for Jehovah. And they help to provide an answer to the taunts and accusations of Satan the Devil.—Proverbs 27:11; Revelation 12:10.
Tests also help us to develop other Christian qualities. As an example, consider the psalmist’s words: “The humble one [Jehovah] sees; but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.” (Psalm 138:6) Many of us are not humble by nature, but trials can help us to develop that necessary quality. Remember the occasion back in Moses’ day when some in Israel found it irksome to eat manna week after week, month after month. Evidently, that was a trial for them, even though the manna was a miraculous provision. What was the purpose of the test? Moses told them: “[Jehovah] fed you with manna in the wilderness . . . in order to humble you and in order to put you to the test.”—Deuteronomy 8:16.
Our humility could likewise be tested. How? Well, how do we react to organizational refinements? (Isaiah 60:17) Do we give wholehearted support to the preaching and teaching work? (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Do we eagerly accept explanations of Bible truth as provided by “the faithful and discreet slave”? (Matthew 24:45-47; Proverbs 4:18) Do we resist pressure to have the latest gadget, the latest fashion, or the newest model automobile? A humble person will be able to say yes to such questions.—1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 3:11.
Trials help to develop in us yet another vital quality—endurance. The disciple James said: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.” (James 1:2, 3) Successfully enduring one test after another with full reliance on Jehovah develops steadfastness, constancy, and integrity. It strengthens us to resist future attacks of Satan, the angry god of this world.—1 Peter 5:8-10; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:12.
Keep a Proper View of Trials
The perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, faced many trials while on earth and reaped great benefits from enduring them. Paul wrote that Jesus “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) His loyalty to the death brought praise to Jehovah’s name and made it possible for Jesus to offer the value of his perfect human life as a ransom for mankind. That opened the way for those who exercised faith in Jesus to have the prospect of everlasting life. (John 3:16) Because Jesus remained faithful under trial, he is now our High Priest and enthroned King.—Hebrews 7:26-28; 12:2.
What of us? Our loyalty in the face of trials likewise brings great blessings. Of those with a heavenly hope, the Bible says: “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.” (James 1:12) Those with an earthly hope have the assurance that if they endure faithfully, they will inherit everlasting life in an earthly paradise. (Revelation 21:3-6) And what is more important, their faithful endurance brings praise to Jehovah’s name.
As we follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we can be confident that all the tests we meet up with in this system of things can be passed successfully. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 2:21) How? By our relying on Jehovah, who supplies “power beyond what is normal” to those who lean on him. (2 Corinthians 4:7) May our conviction be like that of Job, who even as he endured harsh trials affirmed with confidence: “After he has tested me out, I shall come forth as gold itself.”—Job 23:10.
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Jesus’ loyalty under test brought praise to Jehovah’s name. So can ours