A Different Way of Looking at Trials

When Christians are going through something hard and we pray or ask for prayer about the situation, our focus is often relief. If we are ill we pray to be healed, if we are having relationship problems we pray for them to be solved and so on. Of course it is good to pray for those things because God wants us to pray about everything that we are concerned about, and to ask for His help. But I think we often miss the bigger picture that God has in mind, of our sanctification (becoming more like Jesus), and we also don’t realise that we can be victorious in the middle of our trials, not just by coming out of them intact!

One Important Word

There is a two-letter word in this passage which is tiny but has the potential to totally change our attitude and outlook!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:35-39
When I realised the meaning of that word ‘in’ – it blew me away. It is not saying that we are more than conquerors when we get rid of the bad things that happen to us, but that we are more than conquerors in the middle of all these things, through Christ.

In fact Christ was our example for this – he didn’t come into the world by ordering his army of angels in and killing everyone that defied him. He conquered death and the power of Satan by suffering and dying on the cross.

Changing Our Attitude
I am as bad at this as anyone else, because I also look for relief when problems come. But I want to suggest that we need to change our thinking. We should still pray for help and solutions and relief, however I don’t think that should be our main focus.
I think instead we should be focusing on glorifying God in the middle of and even because of our trials. An example from my life has been having three small children. I love them and it is a lot of fun, but it has been the hardest time of my life so far because it just keeps going! Sleepless nights, being on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week with no holidays, everything taking at least three times as long because of constant interruptions, very little time for peace and quiet…
It was only recently that I realised I was wishing this time away, hoping they would grow up quickly so it would all get easier, and often talking about the hardship of it. And I know that is natural to feel like that – but I needed to change my attitude. I needed to realise that I can be more than a conqueror in the middle of this trial, not just when I emerge in a few years time… hopefully 🙂
When I started to see the light I began looking for ways to have victory, realising God doesn’t want me to be this stressed! And I prayed, and found them, and now I feel like I am doing a lot better at being a conqueror in the middle of this trial. I have figured out with God’s help how to rest to balance out the tiredness, how to blog to balance out the mental burnout, and how to fit in a good amount of time for my devotions so that I am depending on God.
I think the key to changing our attitude is realising the truth – that God wants us to live in victory even in the middle of these trials and temptations, and glorify Him through them.
How do we Conquer?
How do we change from just being in survival mode, praying for the time when it’s all over, to having victory in the middle of the trial? Well I’m obviously still learning, but here are some things that I think may help:
  • Realising the truth, that we can have victory in the middle of these things
  • Praying for God’s help and strength, and also wisdom in how to respond rightly
  • Looking for things to thank God for – ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ Phil 4:4                          
  • Look at how we can adjust our schedule to help balance out the hard things we are going through – e.g. make more time for rest, make sure we are getting quality time with God no matter what else is going on
  • Read through and study the scriptures to find out how God wants us to respond in the trial. For example, if others have wronged us we need to forgive, and maybe also confront, them. If we are having relationship problems we may need to focus on passages like Col 3:12-15 where it says to put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness…
  • Focus on God’s goals rather than the hardship – he wants us to become more like Christ and to glorify Him, so how can we do that?
  • Rest in God’s promises, like ‘All things work together for good to those who love the Lord’ Rom 8:28 and trust Him, leave it with Him and not spend time worrying. Also that ‘He will not allow you be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’ 1 Cor 10:13
  • Keep heaven in sight – it is our finishing line and it always helps me to remember that one day there won’t be any tears, pain or sin to deal with!  
So you can be victorious, not just struggling in the darkness! And here is a passage that has been a real comfort to me – which is saying that weakness is good, because when we are weak then Christ can help us by giving us His strength, which is more than we could ever have by ourselves:
‘He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ  may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in persecutions, in distressed, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ 2 Cor 12:9-10 
What has helped you to be victorious in the middle of trials? Do you have any scriptures that have helped you to respond the right way?

If you would like to read more about going through difficult times, you might want to see the series I’ve written called, ‘When Life Doesn’t Go as You Expect’. Here are the links to the posts, below:

1. Being Prepared for Trials
2. Trust that God has a Plan
3. Hold On to What You Know
4. Prayer Changes Things
5. Take Responsibility
6. Keep Pressing Toward the Goal
7. 10 Ways to Support Christians in Trouble

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11 Responses

  1. Thanks Rhoda thats brilliant! Your best post yet I think. Really encouraging and helpful. I’ve found it useful to always pray “yet not my will but your will be done”. Its really helped me realise that God is sending me through a trial for a reason. Thank you so much

  2. lifesplurge says:

    I really love this article Rhoda 🙂 Here are my thoughts…

    Difficulties and suffering can be real sticking points for Christians, and often the reason people fall away – not because of the difficulties themselves, but because of other Christians’ approach to them, which can really hurt people in vulnerable positions.

    For example, I really hate the ‘grit your teeth, smile, and say your hallelujas’ approach that many Christians have. It’s unhelpful and, when you’re in the middle of something, can be really painful to have fellow Christians make you feel worse than useless simply for being honest about how bad things are. Admitting pain does not mean our faith or belief in God is any less than it was when things were going well. It just makes us human!

    I also hate the whole ‘God makes bad things happen to make us stronger’ school of thought. I simply don’t believe that at all – our God is a God of love! Not a control freak who tries to force us into giving Him more attention by making us miserable. If God were like that, I – and I’m sure many others – would not follow. But He isn’t. We live in a fallen world, where bad things happen, and it is His love which is with us, and can sustain us IN SPITE OF horrible/difficult things that may assail us, that sees us through, and gives us peace in the middle.

    Your article however hasn’t taken either of these approaches. In your sweet, direct manner, you talk of turning to God to help us whilst in the middle of difficulties, as well as praising Him when we’ve come out the other side. Which is different to putting on a facade and pretending it’s all ok, or gritting our teeth and telling ourselves that He is making it happen to make us stronger.

    You have expressed the perfect balance of reality and faith, and I love it. You have really encouraged me today (more than you realise!) You are awesome…thank you 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    my stuggle is anxeity and yep this helps i kno i am going throught a trail for a reason thx rhodaL:) Aaron

  4. Rhoda says:

    James thank you for that tip, that is a great prayer to pray to focus on what God wants rather than what we want, and I haven’t really used it in that context before – but I should!

    Becki thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think there is some truth to those other two approaches but they should be balanced with God being loving and it being OK to admit our pain, as you said. I love how the Psalms deal with bad things happening, they are so real and honest but also show God caring and loving and strengthening through the trials.

    Aaron thanks for commenting, I will pray for you 🙂

  5. Anita says:

    What a lovely long thoughtful post. Thanks Rhoda

  6. Rhoda says:

    Thanks Anita for visiting and for the encouragement 🙂

  7. Such truth in your words, Rhoda! Thanks for sharing your heart!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. I’ve been ill with stress for the better part of this year and just found out it is stress that’s been making me ill. I’ve been changing my diet, trying to create a more orderly home, have been planning a daily/weekly schedule for ages which is yet to be implemented, battling sleep deprivation of 7 years (4 lil’ ones), and now I found your article by “”accident””, or rather Godcident! 🙂
    Tremendous encouragement, thank you!

  9. Rhoda says:

    I’m so glad it was an encouragement, it sounds like you’ve had a hard time.

  10. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I’m enjoying your blog because it’s real and personal, and I really appreciate that! It’s always nice to know that there are still people out there who struggle, but want to make the world a little better instead of trying to bring others down.

  11. Rhoda says:

    Hi Andre, thanks for visiting and for your encouraging comment! I try to keep this blog personal and talk about my struggles because otherwise I think it is easy to get discouraged if you’re reading about someone that looks like they have no problems (which I definitely do have!).