Trials Come and Go

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God..." -- Isaiah 43:2-3a.

God has only one route for every child of God. It is through. Every trial, no matter how severe and long, is only temporary. We’re going through.

"Through waves, through clouds and storms,
God gently clears the way;
We wait His time; so shall the night
Soon end in blissful day."

Three times over, our text says "through". God did not lead Israel around the wilderness, but through it. We must needs go through tribulation. There is a needs-be to every trial of the way. His ways with us are past finding out, but the destiny is unmistakable—we’re going Home eventually.

It is true of everyone at all times, in all places, who can say, "The Lord is my Shepherd": "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Not only is this so, but we have the assurance that His presence will go with us for every step of the journey. We can say with confidence, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me" (Psalm 23:4).

He has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee, so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb. 13:5-6).

It is not "if" thou passest through the waters, but "when". It is absolutely certain that no child of God will enjoy clear sailing through life. The Father loves His children far too much for that: "If ye be without chastisement, ye are bastards and not sons...whom the Lord loves, He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives."

Even fathers after the flesh correct us (sometimes just for their own pleasure), but God disciplines us for our profit.

His purpose is to conform us more and more to the image of His Son.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."

Those three Hebrew children, who were thrown, bound, into the burning, fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, were set free of their bonds by that very fire; and not only that, but the Son of God walked with them in the fire. The king elevated them to a higher position because of their loyalty, under fire, to the Lord.

The apostle declares: "No chastening, for the moment, seems to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11).

There are three ways that we can take discipline: (1) We can take it like a chicken, which droops when rain falls on it; and we can faint when we are rebuked of the Lord; or (2) we can take it like a duck and despise it—just let it roll off our backs with no concern; or (3) we can take it like a robin that lets the rain run off its back and is so exercised by it that it lifts its beak to heaven and sings.

"There is never a day so dreary,
There is never a night so long,
That the soul that is trusting Jesus
Will somewhere find a song;
"A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength;
In the heart He implanteth a song."

Just as the refiner sits over the fire to end the "suffering" when the work is done, so the Lord sits over our lives and will not suffer us to be tested above what we are able to bear. God is faithful (1 Cor. 10:13).

Faith says with Job, who was so sorely tried (far more than most of us will ever know): "When I am tried, I shall come forth as gold."

Peter prayed for the suffering believers uprooted from their homes and scattered through various provinces of the Roman Empire, "that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, Whom, having not seen, ye love" (1 Peter 1:7-8a).

It is a paradox of church history that Christians have prospered more under persecution than at any other times. Persecution, trials of every sort, draw the hearts of the people of God to one another and to the Lord. The Psalmist declares, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray" (Ps. 119:67). Adversity unites the people of God, while prosperity divides them from Him and from one another. In Psalm 119:71, the Psalmist declares,

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes."

The very last verse of the longest Psalm (Ps. 119—176 verses) is both a confession and a prayer: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep (he was not one); seek Thy servant, for I do not forget Thy commandments."

"Saviour, lead me lest I stray;
Gently lead me all the way;
I am safe when by Thy side;
I would in Thy love abide."

We probably learn more by our failures than by our faithfulness. Who would dispute that Peter learned more by his threefold denial than by any other single experience in his life? He learned more to trust in the Saviour’s word than in his own word. We all, like Peter, have the tendency to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and the Lord even permits the devil himself to test us—not to discourage or dishearten us, but that we may learn the lesson that "cursed is everyone that makes flesh his arm, and blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord."

We are weakest when we think we are strong, and we are the strongest when we cling to Him in our weakness. Like Jacob, we say to Him, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me."

It was just then that the Lord changed Jacob’s name to "Israel", when he relied completely on the Lord, for Israel means "a prince with God". The man who clings to God in his weakness has power with God and with men (see Gen. 32:28).

"To Him our weakness clings
Through tribulations sore;
And seeks the covert of His wings
Till all be o’er."

"Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild;
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me;
He has redeemed me and I am His child.
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow;
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often, when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blest."



TRIALS COME AND GO

"And it came to pass..." Luke 20:1

It came to pass—the cheerless night;
The morning breaks with roseate light;
The sunbeams dance with sparkling dew;
And bathe the earth with golden hue.

It came to pass—the tempest wild;
With nature calmed like sleeping child;
The billows cease to leap and roar;
And gentle wavelets lap the shore.

It came to pass—the sorrows deep;
The reddened eyes now cease to weep;
And, underneath, God’s loving arms
Now rest the soul and quell alarms.

It came to pass—the heavy care
That seemed beyond the strength to bear;
Till shared by One on yonder throne,
Who bore the greatest burden known.

It came to pass—the shattering blow
Which taught the troubled heart to know
A deeper sense of God’s great grace,
The rainbow in the storm to trace.

It came to pass—this changeful life,
And soon will end the battle strife,
When Jesus comes, or death draws near;
Begone for aye all doubt and fear!

No death nor sorrow, tears nor pain,
No curse nor night return again;
The former things are passed away—
At Home with Christ through endless Day!

 

... Bernard Fell