When Trials Come

Notice that the title of this post says “when” not “if.” Maybe this will be a newsflash for some of you (but I highly doubt it): Christians will face trials.

Even the apostle James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). Wait, trials are “an opportunity for great joy”? How can that be?!

→ Trials teach us lessons that we can learn in no other way! ←

How much more mature, and wise, and empathetic would we become if instead of trying to get out of the trials that come our way, we would instead see what we could get out of that trial!

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:3-5)

“When trials come we can try to get out of them, or we can learn to get something out of them.”

—Craig T. Owens

So the next time a trial comes your way, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lessons you can learn by going through the trial.

7 More Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

It may sound like an oxymoron—defiant joy—but it’s a powerful combination that Stasi Eldredge unpacks in her book. Check out my full review of Defiant Joy by clicking here. 

“Times of testing can also be times of refining and growth. The counterintuitive truth is that suffering can deepen our hope. It enlarges our hearts so that we can know the love and presence of Jesus in ways that we would not if we did not go through the stretching the process.” 

“The waiting can be hard when you are hungry, but when you know a feast is coming, you know that the waiting won’t last forever. Dear ones, the waiting is not going to last. But there is no shame in being hungry while you wait. … In our waiting God often deepens our hunger as well.” 

“We are alive. And to be alive means that we will feel. We don’t need to deny it, and we don’t need to have it rule us. We dare not marry it to cynicism, and we must not fuel it with fatalism. It is not the end of our reality. It is instead a clue that we are strangers in a strange land. And we are passing through. Sadness touches us all, but God can use it to enhance the beauty and joy of the lives we are living. Sadness can fuel our hope. It can arouse our expectancy.” 

“God displayed His fierce, constant love for us once and for all on the Cross of Calvary. The essence of His heart is no longer up for question. Because of all that Jesus won for us and our choice to receive it, God promises that we actually have nothing to fear.” 

“satan comes to rob us of our joy, our peace, and our connection to and faith in God. He whispers lies to us when we are vulnerable and does his best to warp our perception of our lives with his depressing and evil spin. His endless attacks can wear a person down if they are aware that the perceptions being suggested are coming straight from hell.

“satan is very good at stealing. He’s devoted all his malice to separating us from intimacy with our good Father and the experience of deep joy that comes straight from Jesus’ heart. The evil one uses the circumstances of our lives and of the world to bring discouragement and despair. That is why we must remember that though happiness is rooted in our circumstances, joy is rooted in eternity.” 

“Depth of character doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t come at all to those who refuse to admit the difficulties in their lives are painful. It comes when we fix our gaze on Jesus and the reality that this life is only part of the grand scheme of things.” 

“There is something forged in all of us that can only be forged through fire. Perhaps intense periods of struggle, pain, betrayal, persecution, and rejection are the times when the baptism by fire that Jesus talks about occurs. When we cling to Jesus and proclaim He is good in the midst of the licking flames, our spirits rise in a strength that is proven unshakable, and God is glorified beyond reckoning. Our pain becomes the terrain of God. It becomes sacred.” 

Check out some more quotes I shared from Defiant Joy here.

8 Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

For anyone going through a trying time, Stasi Eldredge has given us a timely reminder of how we can tenaciously and defiantly cling to the joy the God gives us. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Ignoring reality does not breed joy. Pretending that what is true does not exist is not holy defiance. The seeds of joy can only be firmly planted in the pungent soil of the here and now while at the same time being tethered to eternity. Joy is fully rooted in the truth. Joy embraces all the senses and is fully awake to the laughter, the wonder, and the beauty present in the moment as well as the sorrow, the angst, and the fear. Joy says, ‘Even so, I have a reason to celebrate.’” 

“Defiant may not be a word we would normally associate with the living God, but it can actually be quite fitting. Defiance means resistance, opposition, noncompliance, disobedience, dissent, and rebellion. And when it comes to things that would destroy our souls, that is exactly the right response.” 

“Joy is not happiness on steroids. It is not happiness squared. … Joy is connected to God and reserved for those who are tapping into His reservoir, who are connected to His life. Joy is rooted in God and His kingdom, in the surety of His goodness, His love for us. It is immovable. Unshakable. Joy is available at all times, day and night, because God and His kingdom are always available to us. … Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates from Jesus’ heart, so as we grow closer in relationship with God, we’ll also grow in joy.” 

“Joy and breakthrough are not opposed to suffering But are available in the midst of it. Suffering is not a failure of faith on our part; its presence does not mean the absence of the presence of God. We can live with suffering and joy simultaneously.” 

“Joy is deeply rooted in the availability of God and His kingdom right here, right now. Sometimes we find breakthrough. Sometimes we find a deeper knowing of God in our suffering.” 

“Here is the truth we must remember in the middle of this sometimes painful healing process: we matter to the heart of God. He hasn’t taken His eyes off us. He thinks of us constantly. He has hopes and dreams for us. God planned on us before He made the stars, and He planned on us being His. He planned on us sharing our lives with Him on this wild adventure. And His plans are good.” 

“God drops things in our laps at just the right time. He puts barriers in our paths that look like roadblocks but are really gifts in disguise, beckoning us to take a closer look at what’s going on inside of us. We can either step over them or choose to pick them up and examine them for the potential they may hold.” 

“When the sadness refuses to be silenced and the feelings arise that this is not the life we had signed up for, we can either go to shame or go to God.” 

I’ll be sharing more quotes in the near future, so stay tuned…

Defiant Joy (book review)

I’m always intrigued by oxymorons. You probably know what these are—when two seemingly opposite things are put together to make something memorable. Like a fine mess, or deafening silence, or seriously funny. Or defiant joy.

Usually “joy” is paired with descriptives like pleasurable, or bubbly, or uncontainable. But “defiant”? Stasi Eldredge makes the case that we need to fight to hang on to joy—that our pursuit of joy against all odds should be, as her book is entitled, Defiant Joy. 

Stasi shares many of her painful life lessons that led her to the conclusion that joy has to be clung to tenaciously or it can be stripped away quickly. Defiantly clinging to joy doesn’t mean a bury-your-head-in-the-sand denial view of life. It is facing the challenges squarely and honestly, and still recognizing that the joy Jesus gives is greater than those circumstances. 

In fact, one of the first quotes Stasi shares in her book is this truism from C.S. Lewis: “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” Talk about a powerful oxymoron! 

I so appreciate the transparency and candor Stasi exhibits as she pulls back the curtains of her own battles for joy. She honestly shares her darker moments with us, tells us where she’s still working, where’s she had breakthroughs, and the applicable lessons we can all use. 

I’m sure everyone one of us will have to face joy-threatening circumstances. The principles in Defiant Joy will help you overcome those circumstances while still tenaciously clinging to joy. Read this book for yourself or read it with a friend going through a difficult time. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

First Reaction

“…Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Romans 12:12).

When trouble comes, is our first response “I’ve got to do something” or “I’ve got to pray”?

Let’s make prayer our first reaction, not our last resort.

Amen!

Reversing The Distress Cycle

God wants you to live in a place where your heart has unshakable security and tranquility. The Hebrew word is shalom, and the Bible gives us a “Shalom Cycle” that keeps us centered and grounded in God’s peace. 

But the Shalom Cycle begins to break down when…

  • …gratitude is replaced by grumbling 
  • …trust in God’s future grace is replaced by unbelief
  • …taking our worries to God is replaced by self-reliance

Anxiety causes our mind to race through all sorts of “what if” scenarios. My friend Josh Schram points out, “There are no benefits at all to having anxieties!” 

The disciples of Jesus were in an anxiety-producing situation—they were in a boat going through stormy seas. Jesus was in the boat with them, but He was sound asleep. Instead of going to Jesus with their worries, the disciples tried to get themselves out of the situation. As they did, the “what ifs” began to mount. 

What if the boat sinks … What if we get smashed on the rocks … What if not everyone can swim … What if (gasp!) Jesus doesn’t make it out alive … What if … What if… WHAT IF?!?

Until finally they screamed at Jesus, “Don’t You even care?!” 

Sadly, their last thought was to go to Jesus, instead of making Him their first thought. 

But Jesus cared more than they knew. Years later, Peter—who was in this storm-tossed boat—wrote, “Casting all your cares—all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all—on Him, for He cares about you with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully (1 Peter 5:7). 

Not—only your big concerns. 

Not—most of your concerns. 

But—ALL of your concerns; every single thing that robs you of even a moment’s peace. 

“Jesus, do You even care?” And Jesus responds with a loving, resounding, “YES! I care about every single thing that causes you anxiety, and worry, and care. Give them all to Me!” 

Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6). 

If we allow the Shalom Cycle to break down, the inevitable result in the exact opposite: The Distress Cycle

 

The arrows are going the wrong way, and we’re being pulled farther and farther down. We need an about-face, a 180-degree-turn, a new direction. The Bible has a word for this: repentance. Instead of the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction: 

  • Instead of anxiety—prayer
  • Instead of worry—worship
  • Instead of tests—testimonies 

“Jesus is more concerned about changing our hearts than about changing our circumstances. He uses our circumstances to change our hearts, IF we will trust Him.” —Josh Schram

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