Trials and tribulations demystified

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Making sense of God’s trials and tribulations

trials and tribulationsSince the only way that we can be approved by God is by passing through tests, trials and tribulations that he permits us to go through it is important that we understand the role of these divine trials and tribulations in our lives. In each test lies the opportunity to reverse the lingering consequences of past defeat and build godly habits and an obedient character in areas where routines of moral failure have reigned in the past. To the extent that we overcome our disobedience with our obedience, we build up our faith, overcome our past spiritual deficiencies and gain a sense of supernatural confidence as we learn to depend on God’s goodness and provision. Here, I would like to suggest at least three principal objectives that God wishes to attain through divine testing, trials and tribulations that also bring us personal spiritual benefits:

Trials and tribulations eliminate hidden impurities

Take away the dross from silver, And it will go to the silversmith for jewelry (Proverbs 25:4)

Fire has the power to manifest impurities so that they can be eliminated without destroying what is good. Primarily, a test comes to shed light on what exists in darkness, freeing us from hypocrisy and pride, producing humility, transparency and consistency. Masks of insincerity and hypocrisy fall off and we begin to discover the delivering power and satisfaction that transparency brings. We do not have to carry the excessive weight of secret sins and hidden weaknesses that terrorize us with the possibility of rejection. The more we try to conceal our wounds and shame, the further we drift away from the truth, freedom and happiness. When we hide our sin, we accentuate the fear of being repeatedly hurt and we end up imprisoning our soul. We take the opposite way of the path of the righteous, which is like the light of dawn that grows greater in brightness until it reaches the intensity of the noonday sun.

The reality is that God is quite familiar with the thick husk of ritual religiosity and self-righteousness that we use to isolate ourselves from relationships, imposing an atmosphere of darkness and spiritual blindness. He also knows the week and wounded person that is inside of this husk, and he knows how to take us out of this prison and emotional condition in which we have resigned ourselves to an hypocritical, superficial and even dishonest existence.

It is not difficult to encounter people who have begun to believe their own lies. God’s testing plays an efficient role in the destruction of these skillfully constructed false appearances with which many people end up deceiving themselves.

This process is usually painful and many times humiliating. However, God will deal with our shame. Shame free-living corresponds to one of his non-negotiable values. His objective is to transform us into “a worker that need not be ashamed”.

Wherever there is shame there is also guilt, fear and pain. This type of shame is a symptom of sin, traumas and unresolved curses. God’s objective is to produce a voluntary, transparent and humble initiative that subverts the state of defeat.

The level of demonic accusation and condemnation that we suffer is proportional to the shame that we harbor within us. The Bible guarantees that when we expose ourselves, when we walk in the light, relationships are restored and become meaningful. The chronic state of sin and reproof is subjugated by the power of the blood of Jesus:

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Our responsible and transparent lifestyle conditions our relationships as well as the purification of our sins.

Trials and tribulations reveal our immediate reactions

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:3, 4)

Another objective of tests is to produce productivity and self-control in those areas in which we are vulnerable. Many of us develop an inability to absorb shocks. We become hardheaded and reactive. When someone hits us, we hit him or her back; when someone insults us we return an insult; when someone treats us well, then we treat him or her well. This hardness of heart sins against maturity and is the principle of destroyed relationships, which lead us to cultivate, frustrated and destroyed relationships. In this way, we are molded by temptations, conformed by this age and transformed into slaves of circumstances.

Trials and tribulations signal us to act in the opposite spirit

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

This statement of Jesus expresses one of the most elevated principles of spiritual warfare. It teaches the great secret of learning to react properly, to act in the opposite spirit of the attack against us. We only overcome situations of hate and enmity with forgiveness, selfishness with generosity, impurity with purity and uprightness, curses with words of blessing etc.

In this way, we “heap burning coals” on the heads of those who act against us, discerning and disarming the source of evil inspiration that manipulates them. Unless we overcome evil with good, all that we will accomplish is to agitate the already heated situation even more. This discipline of the soul called self-control is the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives, manifested by a lifestyle marked by brokenness and surrender.

In order to be sly as a serpent, which is a symbol of Satan himself, it is necessary to be a lamb, and not a wolf, in the midst of wolves. We cannot step in enemy territory while accepting his provocations and fighting against flesh and blood. Self-control is absolutely necessary. Satan always enters through the foothold of lack of control.

Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26, 27)

It is possible for us to be angry without sinning. Anger is not sin. Anger is a feeling that develops the important role of overcoming our indifference with respect to injustice. However, this emotional flair, also involves the possibility of loss of control and sin. When someone invades our privacy or commits an injustice and we witness this, automatically we become angry. However, this should lead us to nothing more than the exercise of measured and righteous zeal.

Anger should also quickly pass. We must not harbor anger beyond the time sufficient to produce in us a righteous action adequate and necessary to the need of the hour. No one should go to bed angry; otherwise, resentment sets in, producing unjust actions. It is what Paul meant when he said, “let not the sun go down upon your anger”. Each day that passes, each time the sun goes down without overcoming anger, the heart becomes resentful, the body grows ill and the soul loses control, eventually demonstrating implacable attitudes.

Anger like any other feeling or desire, must be brought under spiritual control. Exercise in dealing with anger causes self-control to flourish. Whenever we fail to do this, or in other words when instead of overcoming anger or any other feeling, these passions overcome us, we open the door to lack of self-control and give place to sin and the devil.

We must exercise self-control through each set of tests through which God leads us. This is the path to a life of freedom and a stable personality. The law of self-control assures that if we do not overcome ourselves neither will we overcome the adversities of life, if we do not overcome adversities we will not overcome our adversaries and evil potentates.

God verifies our immediate reactions through these tests that deal with the footholds of lack of self-control thus strengthening our spiritual armor that protect us in confrontations and battles. Our armor is just as vulnerable as our self-control! Independent of the way that God chooses to test us, we demonstrate our productivity and ability to form an action corresponding to the values that we hold. The truth is, morally speaking; no one can hurt us without our permission!

Trials and tribulations test our readiness to obey in the long-term

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

God’s trials and tribulations involve another purpose in which the factor to be stressed is time. This is a fundamental aspect of producing perseverance and character. Perseverance produces character and character produces perseverance. The spiritual consistency of a person emerges from this integration. However, in terms of character, time develops an indispensable role in the process of approving faith.

Perseverance is the raw material of character. Patience is the basis of character and the foundation of perfection. God has never manifested his divine perfection as rigidity, intolerance and perfectionism, but as patience and its fruit. More important than attaining any victory is the ability to maintain any victory attained, or in other words, of being able to live in accordance with this new reality, maintaining the conquered territory.

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