I was reading in the book Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd-Jones this morning and came across several paragraphs in the chapter called “Trials” that I thought would probably be helpful to someone out there. At least they were to me . . .
The doctrine of the Scriptures is, at the very lowest, that God permits these things to happen to us. I go further, God at times orders these things to happen to us for our good. He may do it sometimes in order to chastise [discipline] us . . . We must not be surprised if God begins to chastise us. The argument in Hebrews 12 is as strong as this: ‘Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.’ If you have not known chastisement I doubt whether you have ever been a Christian. If you can say that since you have believed you have never had any trouble at all, your experience is probably psychological and not spirtitual. There is a realism about Christianity, as I said at the beginning and it goes so far as to teach that God, for our good, will chastise us if we pay no heed to the exhortations and the appeals of Scripture. God has other methods also. He does not do these things to those who are outside the family, but if they are His children He will chastise them for their own good. So we may be experiencing manifold trials as a part of our chastisement. I am not saying it is inevitable, I say it may be so.
But then sometimes God does this to prepare us for something. It is a rule of the Scriptures, and a rule which is confirmed by and exemplified in the long history of the Church and her saints, that when God has a particularly great task for a man to perform, He generally does try him. I care not which biography you pick up, you may take the life of any man who has been signally used by God and you will find that there has been a severe time of testing and of trial in his experience. It is as if God would not dare to use such a man unless He could be certain and sure of him. So one may have to pass through this kind of experience because of some great task ahead . . .
You are in this faith position and you do not realize, he continues, what a marvelous and wonderful thing it is. We walk by faith, the whole of our life is a matter of faith, and you see, says the apostle [Peter], this is so precious in the sight of God, it is so marvelous, it is so wonderful that God wants it to be absolutely pure. You purify your gold by means of fire. You get rid of alloy and all the impurities by putting gold in the crucible and applying great heat to it and so these other things are removed and the gold remains. His argument, therefore, is that if you do that with gold that perishes, how much more does it need to be done with faith. Faith is this extraordinary principle which links man to God; faith is this thing that keeps a man from hell and puts him in heaven; it is the connection between this world and the world to come; faith is this mystic astounding thing that can take a man dead in trespasses and sins and make him live as a new being, a new man in Christ Jesus. That is why it is so precious. It is so precious that God wants it to be absolutely perfect. That is the apostle’s argument. So you are in these [many trials] because of the character of faith.
But let me put that in a slightly different form. Our faith, we see, needs to be perfected. There must therefore be degrees of faith. There are differences in the quality of faith. Faith is many-sided. There is generally at the beginning a good deal of the admixture in what we call our faith; there is a good deal of the flesh that we are not aware of. And as we begin to learn these things, and as we go on with the process, God puts us through His testing times. He tests us by trials as if by fire in order that the things which do not belong to the essence of faith may fall off. We may think that our faith is perfect and that we can stand up against anything (!). Then suddenly a trial comes and we find that we fail. Why? Well that is just an indication that the trust element in our faith needs to be developed; and God develops the trust element in our faith by trying us in this way. The more we experience these things, the more we learn to trust God. We naturally trust Him when He is smiling on us, but a day comes when the clouds are blackening the heavens and we begin to wonder whether God loves us any longer and whether the Christian life is what we thought it to be. Ah, our faith had not developed the element of trust, and God so deals with us in this life as to bring us to trust Him in the dark when we can see no light at all . . . That is true faith, that is real trust . . . And that needs to be developed in us. We do not start like that, but as we go through these experiences we find that ‘behind a frowning providence He hides a Father’s face’, and the next time the trials come we remain calm and collected. We can say: “Yes, I know, I do not see the sun but I know it is there. I know that behind the clouds the Face of God is looking upon me’. It is by means of these trials that that element of trust is developed.