What we deem to be necessary for our lives and what God deems to be necessary for us are often in conflict. We idolize simplicity and solitude and ease. God desires our sanctification and Christlikeness. And sanctification rarely happens in ease and leisure.
So God — decreeing what is necessary for us (1 Peter 1:6) — introduces a variety of trials into our lives to remove the dross from our lives and to make us pure in our affections and works. So, when trouble comes, it is a good gift from God and something to be embraced for its purifying work and not to be shunned and hated.
In fact, as the story recounted by Charles Cowan demonstrates, there is even danger in attempting to circumvent and ease God’s divinely ordained and necessary afflictions:
I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place. The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all — and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.
I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect case, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shrivelled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one’s eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings. I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation. [Streams in the Desert]
Again, our fleshly tendency is to run from the assortment of trials God brings and permits into our lives. Yet they are His most beneficial work for us. They are always good, even as Joseph repeatedly affirmed to his brothers after being reunited with them in Egypt. His trials were numerous — hated and plotted against by his brothers, unfairly sold into slavery, falsely accused by Potiphar’s temptress wife, unjustly imprisoned, and forgotten by Pharaoh’s cupbearer — so that we might excuse him if he had been angry and bitter against his brothers.
Yet in all his afflictions Joseph rested in and trusted the gracious work of God:
- “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5)
- “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” (Gen. 45:7)
- “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Gen. 45:8)
- “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20)
Whatever the variety of your trials are this day, be confident in this: it is a necessary gift of God to you to make you be all you can be in Christ.