Have you ever had someone pray something for you that made you do a double-take?
Recently, my husband and I were facing a big transition. We were praying for God’s will in this area of our lives, but honestly, we felt stuck and unsure.
As we wrestled through this uncertainty, one afternoon, a faithful member of our church (who is a few decades older and wiser than us) offered to pray for us. Yes, please! I thought. And he did—he lifted our requests to God right then and there. But toward the end of his prayer, he asked God for something I wasn’t expecting: he asked God to use this season of hardship to “test and grow” our faith.
Wait, what? I thought.
That part of the prayer stopped me in my tracks. No—I wanted to interrupt—you don’t get it! We don’t want to experience hardship or be tested. We just want God to show us the way!
Sure, I’d love for my faith to grow, but asking God to use a season of hardship for this purpose seemed like the opposite of what I wanted. I didn’t want to be tested. Even now, this sounds difficult. Painful, even. Honestly, I’d rather not.
Of course, we graciously thanked him for praying for us and went along with the rest of our day. But my knee-jerk reaction to that part of his prayer stuck with me. And it led me to this question: What does the Bible say about the trials that test our faith? Here are three passages in particular that have helped me as I’ve wrestled with this question.
1. James 1:2–4: Trials That Test Our Faith
First, I was reminded of James 1:2–4. James, who authored this letter, was the half-brother of Jesus and an early church leader. While we could probably imagine many topics for such a figure to open his letter with, interestingly, he begins by writing about something that may seem surprising to us: the trials believers face.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Not only does James instruct us to consider our trials a joy, but he also invites us to see how our trials present us with a unique opportunity to have our faith tested so that we can grow in endurance and maturity. James invites us to see the testing and trials we experience as a gift.
2. Romans 5:3–5: Afflictions That Produce Hope
Next, I found my way to Romans 5:3–5. In this letter, Paul carefully lays out the gospel for the church in Rome. As Paul writes about the new life that believers have in Christ, he reminds them that believers “boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2b). And then, he pens these words:
And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
With these words, Paul, like James, reminds us that our afflictions serve a purpose. They produce endurance, which leads to proven character and points to the hope that does not disappoint us: the hope of Jesus Christ. What’s more, when we walk through seasons of hardship, we don’t do so alone; as believers, we have the Holy Spirit to help us (Romans 8:26).
3. 1 Peter 1:6–8: Faith That’s Refined Like Gold
Similarly, in a letter to the churches in Asia Minor, the Apostle Peter takes up the topic of trials. After blessing God the Father and reminding his readers of the gospel, Peter writes:
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
With these words, Peter reminds us that the trials we face now only last “for a short time” in comparison to eternity—even if it doesn’t feel that way now. And like James and Paul, Peter also reminds us that they always serve a purpose. Our trials, painful as they may be, serve to strengthen and refine our faith. The hardships we experience on this side of eternity will result in something more beautiful than we could ever imagine—the praise, honor, and glory of Jesus.
So, How Should We Think About Trials?
As I reflect on each of these passages, I think back on my life as a Christian. I think about how often I’ve prayed—sometimes even through tears—for a season of hardship to disappear. So often, when I’m in the messy middle of life’s circumstances, I just want my problems to go away. But what if those hardships are what God is intending to “test and grow” my faith? What if these are the very circumstances that God, the Potter, is using to mold me, His clay, into a beautiful work of art that will testify to His goodness and glory?
While I may never want to experience hardships, I do want my faith to grow. I want to continue to become more like Christ until I reach glory, according to God’s will for me.
What about you?
The specific prayer request our fellow church member prayed for was soon answered, and we praised God for it! But yet, even then, we continued to face uncertainty in new ways; we continued to feel our faith being tested and grown.
Yet even here, we can feel our faith growing stronger. Through every doubt and uncertainty, we are presented with a new opportunity to trust God more deeply—to allow Him to enter our mess and grow our faith.
So, dear reader, I pray that God would test and grow your faith, too—not because I want you to face hardships but because I want your faith to flourish. I want you to thrive—to lack nothing, to be made mature and complete, and to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the hope that does not disappoint.
Slowly, I’m learning to pray this for myself, too.
Additional Resources on God’s Sovereignty in Trials
How to Persevere through Trials (blog post)