All of us would like life to be smooth, without bumps or surprises, yet we have lived long enough to know that is not the case. Life is difficult and full of unexpected problems.
We can react to these problems in one of two ways. The first way we can react is to allow these hardships and trials to make our lives miserable. The second way is to see them as opportunities for God to strengthen our faith.
In Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus wrote; “It becomes more than obvious the longer you walk with God that His teaching environment for us really is life. And allowing us to fail is not a punishment from God, but a part of God’s process for shaping who we are.”
Spiritual formation is not easy. It requires more than reading books, singing songs, listening to sermons, and giving a few dollars. For spiritual formation to happen we have to follow Jesus. This requires knowing God’s word and applying that truth to our lives.
We have to be aware that Satan, our great enemy, will try to confuse us when it comes to trials. He will try to create fear in our hearts by telling us that God has abandoned us. Satan will try to shame us by telling us these trials are the result of our sin. He will try to distract us with temptation so our focus will be off of Jesus. Satan will do whatever he can to prevent spiritual maturity from happening in our lives.
The good news is that God even uses Satan’s obstacles as opportunities to make us better people. Just as Joseph told his brothers; “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil‚” (Genesis 50:20; NLT), we can recognize the good that can come out of our hardsGod is so powerful that He can even turn evil into good!
The heart of Christian spiritual formation is obedience. God’s Word does us no good if we don’t do what it says. Our faith needs to move from belief to action. I believe that the reason many of us are stunted in our spiritual formation is because we have failed to act. This means the best thing we can do to grow spiritually is to do what God has already revealed to us. We need to obey, even when things are difficult.
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4; NLT)
Our approach to trials is to be one of joy. This joy is not a product of enjoying hardship, but from the knowledge that God uses trials for our maturity.
God loves us, and that means He will not waste our painful experiences, our failures, or our troubles. God will use the trials and hardships of life to make us stronger. In many cases He will even use them to benefit the lives of others.
When trials, troubles, and failures come our way we shouldn’t get discouraged or wonder where God is. Rather our response should be one of faith, knowing that God can redeem the most horrible of circumstances by using them to make us little more like Jesus.