But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
– Matthew 14:24
Nobody likes to go through trials and tribulations, but what a difference it can make in our life when we see God in the midst of them! Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe explains God’s higher purposes from a biblical perspective.
Learning from 2 Kinds of Storms
There are two kinds of storms: storms of correction, when God disciplines us; and storms of perfection, when God helps us to grow. Jonah was in a storm because he disobeyed God and had to be corrected. The disciples were in a storm because they obeyed Christ and had to be perfected. Jesus had tested them in a storm before, when He was in the boat with them (Matt. 8:23-27). But now He tested them by being out of the boat.
Many Christians have the mistaken idea that obedience to God’s will produces “smooth sailing.” But this is not true. “In the world you shall have tribulation,” Jesus promised (John 16:33). When we find ourselves in the storm because we have obeyed the Lord, we must remember that He brought us here and He can care for us.
Jesus always comes to us in the storms of life. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2, nasb). He may not come at the time we think He should come, because He knows when we need Him the most. He waited until the ship was as far from land as possible, so that all human hope was gone. He was testing the disciples’ faith, and this meant removing every human prop.
Experiencing God’s Comfort in the Midst of Suffering
2 Corinthians 1:7
The subject of human suffering is not easy to understand, for there are mysteries to the working of God that we will never grasp until we get to heaven. Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin and rebellion, as did Jonah. Sometimes we suffer to keep us from sinning, as was the case with Paul (2 Cor. 12:7). Suffering can perfect our character (Rom. 5:1-5) and help us to share the character of God (Heb. 12:1-11).
But suffering can also help us to minister to others. In every church, there are mature saints of God who have suffered and experienced God’s grace, and they are the great “encouragers” in the congregation. Paul experienced trouble, not as punishment for something he had done, but as preparation for something he was yet going to do—minister to others in need. Just think of the trials that King David had to endure in order to give us the great encouragement that we find in the Psalms.
Second Corinthians 1:7 makes it clear that there was always the possibility that the situation might be reversed: the Corinthian believers might go through trials and receive God’s grace so that they might encourage others. God sometimes calls a church family to experience special trials in order that He might bestow on them special abundant grace.
God’s gracious encouragement helps us if we learn to endure. “Patient endurance” is an evidence of faith. If we become bitter or critical of God, if we rebel instead of submit, then our trials will work against us instead of for us. The ability to endure difficulties patiently, without giving up, is a mark of spiritual maturity (Heb. 12:1-7).
God has to work in us before He can work through us. It is much easier for us to grow in knowledge than to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Learning God’s truth and getting it into our heads is one thing, but living God’s truth and getting it into our character is quite something else. God put young Joseph through thirteen years of tribulation before He made him second ruler of Egypt, and what a great man Joseph turned out to be! God always prepares us for what He is preparing for us, and a part of that preparation is suffering.
How has your faith been tested by various trials…and what has been the God-honoring outcome?