Trials are a vital and inevitable part of a Christian’s journey. However, different Christians respond to trials differently, which leaves us with the question: “how should I respond to trials?”. There are a lot of bible verses that give instructions on how to face trials and what to benefit from them. Romans 5:3-5 tells us that these trials are meant for our good and build us up as Christians. Here are some ways to deal with trials, to benefit from them just as God intends.
1. Acknowledge them as part of your Christian journey
First of all, you need to understand the true meaning of trials and what it means to go through them. Trials are challenges you face in life that test your faith as a Christian and are aimed at making you a better Christian and person in general.
God allows trials in the life of a Christian for many reasons including to:
- build a particular character trait (a virtue such as patience, and attitudes such as compassion for others who you encounter in the future)
- breed the fruits of the Holy Spirit, as a means of bringing about personal and spiritual growth, such as true joy and kindness
- bring you closer to him because you are likely to pray more and to converse more with him in times of trial
- make you more dependent on God,
- transform into the image of God who is known for long periods of patience in waiting for us to make good choices. True lovers of God learn to wait in hope as He does.
- bring glory to His name because in suffering we can learn to praise him regardless and in so doing, encourage others to continue to trust God despite their own trials. Above all, once God removes our trials, if He so chooses, we are likely to glorify him in the long-term to show gratitude and bear witness of His love to others.
Contrary to the belief of many Christians, trials and sufferings are part of a Christian’s life. Jesus Christ said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on Earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Therefore, the next time you go through trials of various kinds, don’t see it as something unusual happening to you (1 Peter 4:12). Have the understanding that it is there to test your faith, to strengthen you, to help you draw closer to God, or bring out a shining part of you that has been hidden. Ultimately, the trial is for the greater good, some of which we will see in this life and others, in heaven. That alone can give you a great deal of strength to pass through the situation victoriously.
2. Be Cheerful
One thing the devil wishes to achieve with the various trials he brings your way is to drown your spirit and make you feel dejected, make you question being a child of God and God’s love for you.
Don’t allow your trials to take away your joy or make you doubt God’s love for you, as this allows such trials to cement their place in your life. Be cheerful even in the midst of your trials.
Let your joy come from the words of Jesus Christ that tell us to be cheerful in the midst of trials because He has already overcome them, and from the knowledge that every trial is an opportunity for growth and to become a better Christian. Romans 8:17-18 assures us of the great glory that accompanies the trials of life – both here and in the hereafter/heaven. Like Jesus, let the hope of this glory be your strength and joy in facing trials.
Be assured of your eventual triumph over the trials, not because the trials will start to look easy because in most cases they will not change just because we have a Christian mindset. However, be assured of your eventual triumph because God’s word says so. The Bible tells us that the just shall live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7, Romans 1:17). Let the assurance of what God says concerning your trials (John 16:33, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:10, Hebrews 12:5-13) be a constant source of joy for you during these trials.
So rather than questioning God’s love or allowing your heart to be filled with sorrow when facing trials, face them with the assurance of the victory you have over them according to the word of God. Surrender to the will of God regarding that trial. Think of the glory and reward that awaits you at the end of the trial, and let it fill your heart with the joy that grants you victory over the trials.
3. Be prayerful
The importance of prayer in the life of a Christian cannot be overemphasized. The Catholic Church defines prayer as the raising up of the heart and mind to God (Catechism 2590). Prayer is a gateway to God through which strength is drawn from Him for the Christian journey. The bible tells us that there is nothing we can do or achieve without grace from God, and this grace is transferred to God’s children through prayer.
The bible tells us also to pray without ceasing, in trouble or out of trouble. Pray before you encounter trials so that you may have the strength to face the trials when they come. Trial periods are times to be closer to God in prayer and spend more time with Him. Therefore, pray more than you usually do. Visit the Blessed Sacrament and attend the Holy Mass, which is the highest form of prayer more often.
It is in prayer that you are strengthened with words of encouragement and comfort from the Spirit of God, and the purpose for your trial is revealed to you. Therefore, the need to pay close attention, especially during the Holy mass and during those quiet moments before the Blessed Sacraments before or after Mass.
However, there is a need to be watchful that you do not complain (at least not too much) to God in your prayers. The bible tells us to always be thankful, as it is the will of God concerning us (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Your prayers should be that of thanksgiving and worship, not because you are not suffering, but because you know that God intends to refine you through that pain. Ask God also to give you the grace to go through the process successfully, to reap the fruits therein.
4. Be filled with God’s words
Meditating on God’s word is another important aspect of a Christian’s life, upon which the fullness of life as promised to us in John 10:10 depends. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) that we ought to use to fight our Christian battles. Oftentimes, the Holy Spirit comforts us in times of trials with the word of God concerning the situation that we are going through.
Trial periods are times to meditate more on God’s words. Look for God’s words concerning that ugly situation that you are going through, meditate on them, proclaim these truths, and declare them over your situation. Like David, fight every trial and temptation in your life with God’s words.
Therefore, let the word of God dwell richly in you (Colossians 3:16) so that you may be able to stand strong in times of trials. Learn from the temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness. He constantly rebuked the devil and overcame him by responding with God’s word. In the same light, whenever you face trials or temptations, speak God’s words and not your situation.
The word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12), and can destroy the works of darkness. Believe that every single word of God concerning you has already been settled in your life (Psalm 119:89) and set in motion. That way, you can effectively hold on to it and declare it over your life. The words of God are spirit and life (John 6:63). Therefore, in times when you are not so full of life such as during trials, the best place to refill your life status is in God’s words.
5. Be Holy Spirit-filled
The Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, is the power of God at work in believers. He is our advocate, our helper. He is the one who helps us in our weaknesses and strengthens us to do the things we cannot do ordinarily. Everything God does in the lives of believers, He does by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them (Ephesians 3:20). It is quite impossible to live the Christian life without the help and activeness of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
Therefore, a strong relationship with the Holy Spirit is needed if you are to stay strong during the trials you face. Engage in worship and other spiritual activities that build your spirit and keep you connected to the Spirit of God, so that you can constantly draw power from Him in facing your trials. You have to be deliberate in achieving this. Make conscious efforts to build a healthy relationship with the Spirit of God.
Having a healthy relationship with the Holy Spirit is something that should be part of your Christian journey. So that when the trials come, there is enough strength to withstand it and reap the fruits of the trials. It is also important to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit in our walk with Him and do not grieve Him by, for example, overly complaining or saying blasphemous things to God.
Receiving Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and taking advantage of other sacraments such as Penance and Confirmation can also help build and maintain a healthy relationship with the Holy Spirit, who is the same as Jesus Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Stay connected to the Spirit of God because, without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
6. Trust God
“Trust in God with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Sometimes, the reality that faces us in life is in contrast to what God has said or promised. These times, we are often tempted to lose hope and base our judgements on what we see rather than what God has said. The above Bible passage tells us that no matter what the situation may look like, we should always put our trust and full confidence in the Lord.
Let your trust be firm in God, who is sure to do all that He has said (Matthew 5:18). Trust Him through the process He is taking you through. Trust Him because His plans for you are those of good and not of evil (Jeremiah 29:11). Trust Him because His love for you is so great (Isaiah 43:4) and He will not allow anything that is not for your good to come your way (1 Peter 1:7). Trust that all things are working for your good.
It is important to note here that trusting God is not something that can be achieved at the human level especially in very unpleasant situations. You need the help of God to trust Him in the problems and challenges of life. Therefore, ask Him to help you to trust Him all the way, to depend fully on Him. Your trust and dependence on God give you peace during your challenges and allow you to go through this process of spiritual formation.
7. Seek support/advice
Trial periods can be overwhelming sometimes, and require the advice and encouragement of the people around us. When it seems like your strength is failing you and you don’t think you can make it through the period of the trial, some words of encouragement can go a long way in restoring your strength in going through the trial period.
For this reason, it’s important to mind the kind of company you keep. Keep friends and company that can offer you the right words of support and encouragement in times when you need them. Sharing your difficulties in trials with the wrong set of people can do more damage to your chances of going through that trial period successfully.
The Christian journey, just like any other journey, is best embarked on with the company of others (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Therefore, surround yourself with God-fearing people who can pull you up when your strength is failing and offer you some great advice that is capable of wakening your spirit and reviving your strength to continue in the trial period.
If for any reason you find yourself “alone”, reach out to your priest or elders in the church and seek support and counsel from them. Alternatively, or in addition, reach out to social services available to you for counseling at your diocese or in your society in general. You may also go and see a professional counselor but be careful that you select one that incorporates the love of God into their work. You may ask for referrals from good friends, your diocese or your physicians.
To conclude: It is important to note that none of the above tips should be used in isolation. Rather, these tips should be used as complements to one another in achieving the purpose of God for you through the various trials you face in life. Facing trials can be very challenging, but with God on our side, you can overcome all things.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mother of Sorrows, Our Hope and Our Joy…Pray for us.
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