Trials are good for us

January 10, 2012

Another challenging aspect of Jesus’ temptations in Luke 4:1-13 is the emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Luke says in verse 1 that Jesus was “full of the Spirit” and that the Spirit led Jesus into this period of testing in the wilderness. We can infer, therefore, that trials we face—the difficult seasons of our life in which we’re tempted and our faith is tested—are somehow good for us.

Is it scary to imagine that God leads us into testing for a reason?

In my children’s sermon on Sunday, I talked about Presley, the dog that we owned prior to our demonic dog Neko. Presley was an English springer spaniel—a dog with webbed feet who was ideally suited for swimming. Springers are supposed to love water. Not our dog. For whatever reason, Presley was afraid of it.

The late, great Presley White, an English springer spaniel

Years ago, we lived in a neighborhood in which one of our neighbors had a pond in his backyard. I made several unsuccessful attempts to interest Presley in swimming in the pond. I would walk him down to the edge of the water. He refused to go further.

“This is ridiculous,” I thought. One day I led Presley on a leash to the deep end of my neighbor’s dock—it was seven or eight feet deep. As he sat there minding his own business, I picked up his hindlegs and dumped him into the water. And I watched him sink down, down into the water.

I was a bit worried. Did Presley know something I didn’t? Could he really not swim? I was starting to wonder how much I loved him and whether I would jump in to save him when suddenly he popped up out of the water. He was swimming! Proudly! As if he’d been doing it his whole life. From that moment on, he loved swimming. He just needed a push.

Do we human beings ever need a push?

This scripture suggests that sometimes God does the pushing. He forces us into uncomfortable situations that require us to lean on him more. We may lose a job, for example, at which we felt safe and secure. It may feel like the end of the world at the time, but it ends up being the best thing for us. Through the experience, we learn to trust God more.

Jesus trusted his heavenly Father so much that he was willing to die of starvation in the wilderness rather than break that trust. I wonder if this experience helped to prepare him for Calvary, where trusting God would mean his life?

Here’s another great song by Keith Green (here’s a link to his best album on iTunes), which deals with the subject of testing. Green’s words, as usual, offer little wiggle room.

He’s brought me low, so I could know
The way to reach the heights
To forsake my dreams, my self esteem
And give up all my rights

With each one that I lay down
A jewel’s placed in my crown
‘Cause His love, the things above
Is all we’ll ever need

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