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The Second Trial

September 16, 2013

winter storm

Photo courtesy of InAweofGod’sCreation

 

 

 

 

 

 

In both my personal life and my role as a counselor, I encounter trials. Trials that, as a Christian, I accept are a part of living in a fallen world. Jesus reminds us, “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We also read Peter’s words: “Do not be surprised…but rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

I remember going through a certain tough season in my life, and these were the truths my mind accepted. I was able to “take heart” and be comforted by God’s word, and I was even able to see how God was using my experiences for a purpose. I am convinced that our interpretation of trials is affected greatly by two things: our capacity for HOPE and an ability to see that there is some purpose in our suffering.

Our difficult circumstances are what I am calling “the first trial.” But there is a “second trial” that often comes. In my experience, the second trial is unlike the first and is much more unsettling. The second trial comes when our hope begins to wear thin, and we begin to doubt that there is any good that God could possibly bring out of the suffering we are experiencing. The truths our minds once accepted with ease are not experienced at the heart level. Hope becomes difficult.

In the second trial, temptation is more subtle. It is not necessarily the temptation to run to things to ease our pain, but the temptation to believe that God is not good, that He is uncaring. The temptation to fear, to despair, to “lose heart.” How do we respond when we find ourselves in this place? It becomes important to remember (and to have others remind us) who is FOR us and who is against us. Our enemy, Satan, is the Father of lies. He is against God and therefore against the children of God in an aggressive way. The enemy would love nothing more than to convince us that God is not good in our circumstances. He will do everything in his (limited) power to distort our view of God and attempt to isolate us in fear–to convince us that we are alone in suffering.

Friends, it is God who is FOR us! Our Savior, Jesus Christ, not only understands our pain; He came to us in the flesh to bear it. In Hebrews we read, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way–just as we are–yet he did not sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:15-16).

God does not leave us alone in our time of need, but He is close to us, helping us fight the temptations of “the second trial.” He is faithful and His promises are still true, even when our minds struggle to accept these truths. If we call on God in our moments of temptation, He will help us overcome fear and change our perspective on the purpose on the trials we face, even if our circumstances remain unchanged. And when we experience God is these places, the sense of His presence can deepen and confirm our faith in Christ.

I want to close with the second verse of the hymn “My Hope Is Built,” written by Edward Moore around 1834:

“When darkness seems to hide His face,

I rest on his unchanging grace.

In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.”

Darkness may seem to hide His face right now, but do not lose heart. God is with you in whatever trial you are facing right now. Rest on His unchanging grace, and allow Christ, who is intimately acquainted with suffering, to be your anchor. He has the power to restore your hope, to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy, and to remind you that He can bring good out of the trial you are facing. He loves you and is for you always.

joanne_jacqueline_jemsekJoanne Jemsek
Director of Counseling Services
Charleston Southern University