I sat in utter amazement as a friend shared that several years ago he had literally been buried alive while running a piece of heavy equipment. He thanks God for that tragic and traumatic life experience during which he was faced with the reality of his own frailty. He had time to consider the direction of his life and determined that should he survive, things would be different.
How would it change our Thanksgiving Day if instead of sharing the traditional things for which we are thankful—health, a good job, etc., we said that we were grateful for a trial in our life? To thank God for the loss of a job, a brush with death, or persecution for our faith may seem like irony, but it should come naturally to God’s children.
One of the realities that stem from being “justified by faith” (declared to be in right standing before God by means of faith alone, in Christ alone) is to join Paul and “exult in our tribulations…” (Romans 5:3). What sounds sadistic is actually a spiritually mature perspective. God’s children are no longer subject to God’s wrath but are objects of His love—“God’s love has been poured out within our hearts” (Romans 5:5,8).
Trials are not punishment but a petri dish for growing our faith. Christians are to exult in tribulations because we know that trials produce perseverance (Romans 5:3b). Years without a World Series win produced perseverance in Chicago Cubs fans. Real Christians stay faithful during trials.
Perseverance deepens character. Shin splints shot excruciating pain through our daughter’s legs with each step of her final cross country race, but she finished. Her character as a finisher was proven through the pain. Perseverance in trials isn’t the path to forgiveness in Christ, but proof of it. Proven character hopes more sincerely in God’s promises to work in and through us currently and ultimately deliver us from trouble in eternity.
A young Christian told a friend, “I can’t believe that God loves me enough to use me to show others how to live faithfully with cancer.” He’s not in denial or dismissing the painful reality of his trial, but demonstrating the certainty of a relationship with God through faith in Christ. May our faith produce the fruit of Thanks-living, which is gratitude for trials and triumphs confident that our loving God uses both to deepen our faith and direct our attention to heaven.