By Will Dole
In the classic movie, “The Mark of Zorro,” the hero arrives at the home of the corrupt governor of California, who he is trying to force out of office. To keep others from suspecting that he is Zorro, Tyrone relays the activities he went through that afternoon as he was preparing for the party. It seems his bath was drawn too early, and so when he had finally decided what he was going to wear, the water was “simply tepid.” By the time “a new bath was drawn and properly scented,” he says, there was no way he could make the dinner party on time. He concludes his story with a pathetic plea for sympathy from his accommodating hosts, saying, “Life can be rather trying, don’t you think?”
If this described our trials at their worst, we would be very fortunate, indeed. However, the afflictions we face in our lives are much more devastating than tepid bathwater and can be overwhelming at times. Trials will come. None of us can completely avoid them, as much as we would like to do so.
Recently, I can attest to this fact, having experienced the most trying month and a half of my life thus far. The troubles began for me when my baby brother was born with a serious congenital heart defect and was not expected to live more than a week. Thankfully, with expert medical care and more prayers than can be counted, he made it through open-heart surgery while only 11 days old. He’s been recovering slowly, but of course, it’s been very stressful for my family and me.
But the bad news didn’t stop there. Only nine d
ays later, my parents got a call telling them that our house was on fire! Sadly, the house was utterly destroyed. What didn’t burn, had so much smoke and water damage, very little could be salvaged.
Personally, I thought I was dealing fairly well with this news. But then, one Sunday I received the news from my pastor that one of my very best friends had died in a car accident! As you might imagine, this news quickly sent me spinning into a roller coaster ride of emotion.
As I share this, I realize many people have serious trials in life. My intent isn’t to draw attention to my struggles, but to communicate a powerful lesson I am learning as I experience these things. God has been using each of these unwanted circumstances to teach me how He uses trials to mold us for His glory.
1 Peter 1:3-9 makes this clear:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
Finally some good news! We are told in verse three that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are given a living hope. It goes on to promise that we will bear many trials in this life, all for the glory of God, and that we will receive “joy inexpressible and full of glory.” How does this happen?
Elsewhere Jesus is described as our High Priest, who loves us and understands all that we may suffer (Hebrews 4:14-16). God the Son came to earth and lived for 30-plus years as a perfect, sinless man. His trials included everything in the human experience. He suffered the loss of His close friend Lazarus (John 11). He was rejected by both his followers (John 6), and by His own hometown (Luke 4). We know of many other things through which Jesus had to suffer. Jesus lived a perfect life through His sufferings, and then was rewarded with the death we deserve. He laid down His life, dying in a most brutal way, in order that we may have life (Romans 5:6-9, Philippians 2:8).
Too easily we forget how great a sacrifice this really was. Jesus suffered ultimate physical suffering and disgrace in the human sense, but as you probably know, it did not stop there. In bearing the weight of our sins, Jesus suffered separation from God the Father (Matthew 27:46) and was cursed by Him, as well (Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:23).
Where is the hope in this? We have hope because we have a Savior who paid it all. As the above verses tell us, through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and His victory over death, we are able to experience inexpressible joy. Jesus willingly lived, died and rose again, to save us from sin, death and Hell. We have freedom from the bondage that is sin, and we are called to live a life set apart.
I think one of the major road blocks many people have with their walk with the Lord is the fact that they aren’t actively walking with and pursuing Him. We expect joy in Christ to just happen as a de facto side affect of being a Christian, when, in fact, God has a much higher calling for us.
Here’s the bottom line: We aren’t just given a “Jesus life preserver,” if you will. We are given a mandate to live lives radically different from how we have walked before, and it is through that radically different lifestyle of following our Savior that we are able to experience joy and peace even through the bad times. It is a challenge to continue to seek God in the midst of trials. But it can be done by shifting our focus away from ourselves, and toward what God is teaching us regarding glorifying Him. We should be intent on worshiping Him in the midst of all these things. Nobody said it would be easy, but Jesus is directly beside us as we walk. We can trust Him, because He knows the way!