Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Acts 14:22 NIV
One of the memorable moments in my life occurred in the Kruger National Park when I watched the birth of a giraffe. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. The front hooves and head emerged first and the baby giraffe got its initial view of the world while dangling ten feet up in the air. There wasn’t much time to admire the view. A few minutes later the calf was pushed out and unceremoniously dumped on its back. How it survived the fall is beyond me. It smacked down in a tangled heap of legs with such force I thought it would break every bone in its body. Then, lying in the mess of the birthing fluid, it barely had time to recover before the mother turned on it. She swung her rear leg and gave it a solid kick, sending it head over heals through the dirt. This violent process was repeated over and over again. The mother was merciless. Even as the calf struggled to get up the mother swung her long pendulous leg and sent the calf sprawling yet again.
There was method in her madness. The mother’s kicks stimulated the calf’s efforts and finally the calf managed to gather its legs under it and stand for the first time. I cheered enthusiastically. After all the abuse the baby giraffe had endured it was phenomenal to see it wobbling and staggering around.
The mother giraffe didn’t share my sentiments. Taking aim she once again lashed out and kicked the calf off its feet. I was incensed. The savagery and brutality of the mother giraffe was unbelievable.
But my anger was rooted in ignorance. I later learnt that it’s vital for the mother giraffe to treat the calf this way. In the wild the only defence a baby giraffe has against predators is its ability to get up and stay on its feet. If the calf can’t do this it soon becomes a tasty meal for the lions, leopards or hyenas. Thus the mother giraffe wastes no time in teaching her calf to get up quickly and get with it. This is the most important lesson the baby giraffe will ever learn.
It’s also one of the important lessons you and I must learn. For in our journey through life we will get through one trial and often be knocked down again by the next. That’s life – getting up, getting knocked down, getting up, getting knocked down, and in the process, hopefully learning to grow up.
That’s how God intended it to be. He never promised that life would be easy. Faith is always tested. Jesus, for example, warned His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” John 16:33. And Paul told his converts that “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22. Yes, God never promised to take our trials away. They’re part and parcel of life. It’s unrealistic to expect things to always go our own way. After all, Satan and his demons fight us, the world opposes us, and bad things happen simply because we’re human.
Fortunately this is only one side of the coin. On the flip side we discover a good God who promises to be with us and deliver us regardless of the cause, type, or severity of the trial that comes our way. He will never leave us or forsake us (cf. Hebrews 13:5). He is faithful and “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
That’s the bottom line. God uses trials to help us up. Testing works for us, not against us. He uses our distress for His glory and our benefit. John MacArthur recognizes this truth when he says, “The more we rejoice in our testings, the more we realize that they are not liabilities but privileges, ultimately beneficial and not harmful, no matter how destructive and painful the immediate experience of them might appear.”
Trials aren’t our enemy. They’re our friends. They help us mature. For it’s through trials that we draw closer to the Lord and learn to live for the things that matter most.
The story of Joseph is a fitting illustration. His brothers despised him, sold him into slavery, and along the way he was incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. If anyone had cause to be bitter and angry it was Joseph. Yet when given the opportunity for revenge, Joseph said to his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good …” Genesis 50:20 NKJV.
There you have it. There is triumph through trials because “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” Romans 8:28.