When Trials Surprise You

J.R. Waller, MBA

Key Points

  • Trials are not fun, but they are necessary and real aspects of the Christian life. Often, they surprise and shock us.
  • Yet, God uses trials for our benefit and for His glory and purposes. Trials have meaning.
  • Knowing the theological implications behind our trials equips us to respond to them Biblically. A Biblical response to trials includes both expecting trials, and rejoicing in them.

12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 1 Peter 4:12 (KJV)

Introduction

I remember how one time I was criticized after giving a sermon, and it got under my skin.

The next day a friend of mine, who is a worship pastor, told me he had experienced the same thing many times throughout his career.

Not that it made it right, but he reiterated to me that that sort of thing happens all the time in ministry. He told me you just have to accept it and not let it derail you or keep you from communicating God’s Word. He was right.“When you have been wronged before for being a Christian, did it surprise and shock you?”

His counsel made me aware of something that was painfully obvious to me at that point; I had overreacted.

Moreover, I became unnecessarily surprised by and obsessed with something (criticism) and the devil was using it to distract me and make me question things. I was not spiritually prepared for the trial, and I acted surprised as a result.

Though my friend’s counsel was a little hard to take at first, I needed it. It snapped me out of it and enabled me to focus back on the mission at hand.

I wish I could say my story here was the only time I had responded like I did. Regrettably, trials have caught me off guard more times than I care to admit.

What about you? Has a trial ever taken you by surprise? When you have been wronged before for being a Christian, did it surprise and shock you?

Did you overreact, ruminate and stew? Or did you respond properly to the struggle and understand it in light of God’s Word and teaching?

Thankfully, there are examples on how to properly respond to trials all throughout the Bible. In this devotional we are going to learn why we often react in surprise to trials, and how to respond to them Biblically.

“Think it not strange”

There’s a reason why Peter makes an effort to tell us to “think it not strange” when we face trials. It’s because we often have the opposite response; we think trials to be strange things.

In the original Greek, by “strange” Peter means surprised, astonished and amazed. These are usually our first responses to hard times and wrongs committed against us.

Now, its not necessarily the response that is wrong in and of itself. If terrible occurrences in our lives did not effect us at all we’d be emotionless.

Rather, its what lies deeper, it’s the why behind our response.

Why Christian Trials Surprise Us

The problem is that thinking a trial strange, or being surprised by it, is an overreaction. Overreactions always come from a place of vulnerability and misunderstanding.

When we overreact, we get caught off guard which means our guard was already down to being with! That’s a red flag in regards to our spiritual condition.“Overreactions always come from a place of vulnerability and misunderstanding.”

Simply put, our overreaction means weren’t prepared for the trial that so shocked us.

What is more, not only do we become stunned in such circumstances, but our lack of preparation and wrong response leave us to ruminate on our trials. We then allow trials to “get under our skin.”

Now, we can’t prepare for everything, but again I’m talking about overreacting. Overreacting is never a good thing.

In fact, its also an evidence that we overestimate our own abilities and underestimate the devil.

We fail to give credit to the devil’s power, while also allowing ourselves to revel in our own strength. We feel we can take on the world for Jesus and that nothing can harm us.

Yet, both of these attitudes leave us high and dry when struggles come. When times are good, we feel invincible but we are easily toppled when things get hard.

The Truth About Trials

Ultimately, trials surprise us and seem strange because we just aren’t equipped with the knowledge necessary to properly respond to them with an attitude of rejoicing and levelheadedness.

Remember, Peter also says “but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” (1 Pet. 4:13) He also adds that “if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye.” (1 Pet. 4:14)

So, how can we respond to trials we face for being Christians in the ways Peter says? We need to remember and do what God says.

Just like a house built on sand, our foundation of faith quickly erodes when trials come because while we might have heard Jesus’ words, we have not done them.

When we hear what Peter and the Bible say about how to respond trials, but we still react to them with shock, we are being “foolish.” (Matt. 7:26-27) “God is glorified, and we are blessed by all the trials we face for being believers.”

We must remember that Jesus told us that trials will come. (Jn. 16:33) In fact, following Christ brings division; it divides families and friends and even societies. (Matt. 10:34)

And we also know that He works to refine us through suffering and challenges. (1 Peter 1:6-7, Prov. 17:3)

As such, the world hates us yet God also has divine appointments for us that include seasons of trial in order that we may be made “perfect and entire” and “wanting nothing.” (Jas. 1:4)

Trials are for our benefit and good, they make us more like Jesus. For the Christian who loves God and has been called by Him, all things work together for good, and trials are part of His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)“Not overreacting to trials and having a theological understanding of why they happen are the keys to Christian resilience, and the fuel that energizes us to rely on God to get through them.”

In addition, trials confirm our calling and salvation for in them “the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon” us. (1 Pet. 4:14)

They also glorify God, and bring us closer to Him as we share in His sufferings. (1 Pet. 4:13-14)

This all means that God is glorified, and we are blessed by all the trials we face for being believers. (Matt. 5:11)

With these truths now outlined, let’s learn how to respond to trials Biblically.

Expect and Rejoice

In light of the Bible’s teaching about trials, they need not surprise us. Rather, we must expect them.

When we do, calm, level, and theologically informed responses prevail, and we can walk through trials with God because we understand why He is allowing them to happen.

Even when we don’t like it, and cannot fully comprehend why certain trials confront us, we can react properly and endure them because we know they have meaning because they are part of God’s purposes for us.

Not overreacting to trials and having a theological understanding of why they happen are the keys to Christian resilience, and the fuel that energizes us to rely on God to get through them.

Conclusion

Trials are not fun, but they are necessary and real aspects of the Christian life. Often, they surprise and shock us. They leave us reeling, festering and of no use to God’s service as a result.

Yet, as we have seen, God uses trials for our benefit and for His purposes. They have meaning, and when we know the theological implications of our trials, we can respond to them with expectation and rejoicing.

Next time you are challenged for God, think it not strange, for you are blessed “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matt. 5:11)

Soli Deo gloria!

Image Credits

Studies of a Woman Praying, early to mid-19th century, Ludwig Emil Grimm (German, Hanau 1790–1863 Kassel). Graphite and watercolor. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Purchase, Guy Wildenstein Gift, 2008. 2008.510.

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