When you were in school, how many of you loved hearing the words, “Today we’re having a pop quiz” when you entered the classroom? For most of us, that was the last thing we wanted to hear. Why? It’s because no one likes to be surprised with something unknown or difficult, yet if we really think about it, isn’t life full of pop quizzes? Sure it is. We are put in situations every day that test our ability to apply what we have learned. In the classroom of life, we tend to call these pop quizzes trials, storms, difficulties, or challenges. It is only when we embrace them as valuable lessons that are truly blessings that we are able to move out of the storm.
Speaking of storms, remember back in the day when your favorite television show would be interrupted by a long beep and the announcement, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. This is only a test.” These tests were conducted each week to make sure the system was working, so it could be used during real emergencies, such as war, threat of war, national emergencies, or just severe weather. It always seemed to happen during the best part of the show and felt like it would last forever. Of course, it didn’t, but it was an annoyance, nonetheless. As children, we failed to appreciate the importance of the test and its role in preparing us for potential danger. As we are being tested in life, are we still unconsciously acting like children and failing to see the purpose for our test and not realizing that it won’t last forever?
The Bible is full of the phrase, “and it came to pass.” I had a friend who reminded me during a difficult time in my life, “It didn’t come to stay. It came to pass.” It was just what I needed to hear. Just like the test of the Emergency Broadcasting System, our test will also pass. How fast it passes it totally up to us. When we learn the lesson it has to teach, that particular test will be over. Remember though, just like the Emergency Broadcasting System had to be continually tested to make sure it was ready, we also need to be tested in order to grow and be refined.
The Bible also speaks of us being refined through afflictions. James E. Faust said,
In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong.”
If we will let them, our storms can wash away our impurities similar to how the refiner’s fire purifies gold. Just like the pop quizzes in school, these tests will show us the gaps in our knowledge and help us move to another level of understanding, if we are willing to learn the lesson.
It’s all in how we perceive the lessons and ourselves that determines how much and how quickly we learn. Are our trials lessons and blessings, or hindrances and annoyances? Are we victims, or are we doers? James 1:22 says,
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
If we constantly see ourselves as victims of other people and circumstances, we stunt our own growth. Bad things happen to good people all the time, but using that as an excuse to withdraw from life, throw a tantrum, or play the victim only serves to lengthen our trials. When we’ve been doing our best, and we keep getting knocked down, it’s tempting to get discouraged. Have you ever heard someone say, “Why does this always happen to me?” Could it be that the lesson they need to learn, but are refusing to, is tied to that specific type of situation? Doesn’t it make sense that unless they learn the lesson from that situation, it will continue to present itself over and over until they do?
Joel Osteen said,
Don’t just go through it; GROW through it.”
When we see our storms as lessons that will turn into blessings, we become doers ready grow as we act upon the things we know to be true. We begin to be solution oriented rather than problem oriented, and that is when the learning begins and the transformation of trial to blessing has begun. We don’t just put our head down and wait for the storm to pass, we begin to look for the lessons that will elevate us and refine our character, and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn. It is said that we are either going through a test, just coming out of one, or getting ready to be tested.
In closing, I’d like to encourage you to look back on your life and remember your toughest trials and see what lessons and blessings came from them. Begin keeping a journal to record such insights. It will be of great value to you the next time you are going through a trial, and it will be valuable to your posterity as well. If there are tough times you remember, and you can’t see the blessing that came from them, may I offer one to consider?
I believe sometimes we encounter trials that are not only meant to strengthen us, but to help others later in our lives. It is said that time heals all wounds. Maybe, maybe not, but it does help us see things from a different perspective. Look around for someone now going through a trial similar to one you encountered and survived. You may be the only person in their life who can help them see the light at the end of the tunnel, the only person who can truly say, “I know how you feel.” I don’t know about you, but if that is the only reason I had to endure a trial, it’s reason enough for me.
Matthew 25:40 says,
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Because of your experience, you will be able to succor them. You will be able to lift them and help them make it through their storm. You will be able to tell them, “This is only a test.”