We change simple things everyday: our clothes, our thermostats, and even our minds… but character and heart-change only come through hard work, sometimes through suffering, and always by God’s intervention.
33 “People who are wise will help many to understand. But for some time they will be defeated by swords and flames. They will be captured and looted. 34 As they are being defeated, they will get a little help, but many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise people will be defeated in order to refine, purify, and make them white until the end times. But the appointed time is still to come.
Daniel 11:33-35 (GW)
15 He rescues suffering people through their suffering, and he opens their ears through distress.
Job 36:15 (GW)
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel, 22 for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them.
Psalm 78:21 (NLT)
Change Is Hard
The scriptures above teach us that our greatest changes come through difficulties and trials. Trials make us listen better, refine us, and teach us to trust God. The problem is that when we go through trials, they are often painful and our sin gets exposed in the process, which causes more pain. This is when we often give up and never learn to trust God.
19 The Lord’s promise tested him (Joseph) through fiery trials until his prediction came true.
We all know the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers, got falsely accused of a crime by a woman and put in jail, and then was forgotten. It is difficult to fathom what he must have gone through – the questions he had for God, the anger and bitterness he must have felt, and the despair that gripped him perhaps every day. These truly were fiery trials! But God had a purpose and it was fulfilled when the time came. He needed his character to be changed by God to be ready, even though he did not know it. Think about how we would have responded and how we fall apart when we go through much lighter trials. But he was ultimately victorious and gained the character and trust in God to fulfill his destiny. If we quit before God is finished, we may never know what he has planned for our lives.
Psalm 105:19 (GW)
God Can Help
If we can learn to turn to God instead of turning away when we are going through difficulties, we can reach the goal of deep character and heart change that we need for our lives. If we could just believe that he cares and wants to help, we could gain the confidence that we need to change our lives.
1 The Lord will answer you in times of trouble. The name of the God of Jacob will protect you. 2 He will send you help from his holy place and support you from Zion. 3 He will remember all your grain offerings and look with favor on your burnt offerings. Selah 4 He will give you your heart’s desire and carry out all your plans.
Psalm 20:1-4 (GW)
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusted him, so I received help.
For the most part, it is not difficult to believe that God wants to help, and when we are talking to our friends, or when we are not going through particular trials, it is easy to believe that God cares. The Bible is full of scriptures to reassure us that he loves, cares, and wants us to do well and to give us our heart’s desires. It is when our lives take a turn and we don’t get what we want that we stop feeling loved or cared for by God. It is a challenge to be faithful to him when we are in emotional pain. Change comes when we can help our hearts to be grateful and hopeful through hard times.
Psalm 28: 7 (GW)
- What do you do when you go through trials? What is your first thought toward God? Does your heart become resentful?
- The older we get as Christians, the more entitled we can feel. Is that true for you? Do you feel as though your life should be easy, or that because you have served God, you should not have to go through difficulties?
- Are you resentful about dating? Kids not becoming Christians, or having fallen away? Marriage not being what you expected?
- What character change have you been avoiding because of the pain and effort it is going to take to change? How much do you really ask for God’s help? On the other side of all of these trials could be the fulfillment of the hope of which we have been dreaming if we do the hard work of learning humility, trust, deepening our faith and revitalizing our purpose.
One of the things that I have had to change having faced many trials in the past few years, was the way I pray.
- Instead of praying for relief, we have to learn to pray to see sin.
- Instead of praying for a good day, we have to learn to pray to be able to handle what comes that day.
- Instead of praying for comfort (or wishing for it), we have to learn to pray for spiritual strength to endure the difficulties.
- Instead of praying with a bitter heart, we have to learn to pray with gratitude.
- Instead of not praying, we have to make ourselves face God with all of our feelings and issues.
- Instead of praying with little feeling, we have to pour out our hearts in prayer.
- Instead of being satisfied praying with superficial change, we have to pray for deep character change.
- Isaiah 38:15
- 1 Peter 4:1-6
- Proverbs 14:9
- Proverbs 3:5