"Lord, why is this happening to me?" Sarah muttered amidst tears gushing down her face. Passersby wondered at this woman crying as she walked down Campbell Street heading for St. John's Hospital where her six-year-old son was hospitalized. Two nights ago, Sarah and her husband Steve, had to rush Jim to the hospital. That night, Jim's temperature was high and he was coughing and vomiting incessantly. If this was one of those usual fevers children had, Sarah wouldn't have been so disturbed. But this was actually the third time Jim, their only son and child, would be hospitalized this year.
As she entered Jim's hospital room, her heart bled as she saw her dear son whom she loved. He was lying helpless on the hospital bed with so many tubes fixed to his chest and tiny hands. Sitting next to him was her husband. Poor Steve. She could actually see and feel the pain in his heart.
"Why is this happening to me? When would all this come to an end? Lord, if there is a sin I or my husband have committed that has brought about this, forgive us O Lord", Sarah quietly said to God. The last one year had been the most difficult for Sarah and Steve. Sarah could vividly remember how it all started.
It started nine months ago to be precise. That fateful day, when Sarah got back from work, she noticed that Jim wasn't his usual active self. He was unusually quiet and withdrawn. Taking a closer look at her son, Sarah observed that he had a temperature. She tried to give him something to eat which he reluctantly took, then gave him a teaspoon of Paracetamol syrup, hoping it would reduce his temperature. Later on that night before they went to bed, Sarah and Steve prayed for Jim. But by 1.00a.m., Jim's condition had deteriorated. He was restless, his temperature had gone up, and he was just vomiting. Sarah and Steve then rushed him to the hospital.
On getting to the hospital, Dr. Martin, their family doctor, examined him. He gave them a prescription for Jim and encouraged them not to lose their sleep, their son would be perfectly okay. But the reverse happened. Three days later, Jim's condition worsened. At this stage, he refused to eat anything and had turned very pale. The strange thing was that he kept turning away from light. They brought him back again to the hospital. After running some tests, Dr. Martin regretfully told them that their son had meningitis and would have to spend a few weeks in the hospital.
That was the beginning of Sarah's worst nightmare. For the next couple of months, Sarah and Steve sadly and painfully watched their once jovial, handsome and healthy Jim reduced to a ghost of his old self. He had difficulty walking, wasn't talking properly, and seemed not to understand when people spoke to him. Dr. Martin had carefully explained to them that Jim was suffering from an infection in the membranes surrounding his brain which accounted for his sudden mental dullness.
Day and night, Sarah and Steve prayed to God to heal their son. Sarah actually had to stop work so she could look after Jim. While Steve found it extremely difficult to concentrate at work. Huge sums of money went into drugs, tests and hospital bills. They prayed, fasted, quoted and confessed Bible passages on healing. They also saw two highly anointed and popular pastors about Jim's condition, still things didn't get any better. The financial, emotional and physical strain caused by Jim's ailment was even affecting their marriage. With everything that was happening, it was a miracle Sarah hadn't broken down.
Recently, Sarah and Steve noticed some improvements in Jim and had begun to praise and thank God for His faithfulness, only for Jim to have a relapse and now they were back in the hospital Sarah dreaded so much.
Watching her son and husband in the hospital room, so many things were running through Sarah's mind. Her mind was overflowing with questions for God. Why was He allowing them go through this? What happened to those good old promises about divine health and healing? Was the problem with her faith? Was there something she had done that she was being punished for? Why, why, why? Why in the world was this happening to her?
Just like Sarah, thousands of Christians all over the world are asking God similar questions. You are going through a tough time and you don't seem to have answers to the questions on your mind. Worse still, it doesn't appear like things are ever going to change or get better. You have done everything you know how to, but the problem is still there. Is God unjust? Is He unfair? Why does God allow those He says He loves to face such difficult times?
One thing is clear and certain from the Word of God, Christians will face trying and difficult times. You won't be exonerated from trials because you love God, pay your tithe, or are a worker or minister in your church. Jesus said in John 16:33 that "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Painful though they may be, trials are used by God to achieve certain things in our lives. God doesn't necessarily bring the trials on us. The trials come because we are in a fallen and sinful world. They also come because the devil hates you and has come to steal your joy and peace (John 10:10). And sometimes, our own carelessness can bring about these trials. Remember, Matthew 13:25 tells us that it was while men slept that evil was sown. Whatever be the reason, God has His way of using trials to achieve something good in our lives.
1. God uses our trials to test the sincerity of our faith and love for Him (1 Peter 1:6-7)
God needs to know what you are really made of. He needs to know exactly where you stand. He needs to be sure that you are not just following Him for blessings, blessings, blessings and more blessings, but that you have a deep and genuine love for Him. Abraham must have said over and over to God that I love you. But it was the day God instructed him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son whom he loved, that God knew without a shadow of doubt that Abraham really loved Him. Jesus in the parable of the sower points out to us that there are some Christians who have no roots. They aren't rooted in Christ. They are surface Christians. Here today, gone tomorrow. It is the trials of life that bring out their true colour. "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away" (Matthew 13:20-21).
2. Trials help in our sanctification process
God uses trials of life to purify us, refine us, discipline us and make us spiritually mature (Hebrews 12:5-11, 1 Peter 4:12, James 1:3-4). Trials are like spiritual fires that burn off a lot of chaff in us. A lot of unnecessary talk and behaviour are subdued when you have a crisis at hand, or when you are faced with a life and death situation. Trials have a way of making you realize what is really important in life and focusing your energies on those things. The more chaff is removed from you, the more refined you are, the more you reflect the glory of God.
3. Trials are used by God to humble us and make us more dependent on Him (2 Corinthians 1:8-10, 2 Corinthians 12:7)
Until the chips are down, until the going gets tough, some people may never see the need to draw near to God. Trials are used by God to get the attention of those who see themselves as self-made or self-sufficient. For some who feel they have the world at their fingertips and have everything under control, it will take some form of hardship to humble them and get them to fall on their knees seeking God's help and intervention.
4. Trials are opportunities for God to display His power and glory (1 Peter 4:12)
If Joseph's brothers had not persecuted him the way they did, if Potiphar hadn't thrown him into prison, he would never have known God as One who can lift a man from the prison to the palace and completely change the story of one's life. Lazarus' death made his sisters and so many other onlookers realize that there is a God who has power over life and death and nothing, absolutely nothing is too difficult for Him. The hardness of Pharaoh brought about great demonstrations of God's miraculous power. No situation is beyond God. For as long as you remain yielded to God, He can make your stumbling blocks your stepping stones. He can show up for you at anytime to display His power and glory and turn hopeless situations around.
5. Trials make us better encouragers
2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us that "God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God". If you have never waited on God to have a child, if you are clueless about what it feels like to be dead broke, if you have not gone through the pain of losing a loved one, your words of encouragement to people in such situations may not carry much weight. Yes, they may listen to you, but in their heart all they may be saying is 'you have no idea what I am going through. It's easy for you to talk after all, you have never experienced what I am going through'. But when you are a living example of someone who has been through the valley of the shadow of death, yet came out victorious; when you have gone through marital, financial, spiritual or health problems and are still standing tall and strong, your words to someone in a similar situation become what Proverbs 25:11 describes as "apples of gold in settings of silver".
What you are going through today can be a life-saver for one, two, three, or even thousands of people tomorrow. Don't allow the devil fill your mind with thoughts that will discourage and frustrate you. See the big picture. See a big God at work. He hasn't left you, He hasn't forsaken you. He is for you and with you. Keep holding on to Him and His Word and very soon you will sing a victory song. "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). It won't be night forever; you won't be in that problem forever. Your morning will certainly come! www.teshnwritings.com
Tesh Njokanma is a lawyer by training whose heart is in writing. She is a prolific writer with over 15 years experience as a magazine Editor. She is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God with a prayer and teaching ministry. Tesh is married with children. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.