Trials always take us by surprise. We get blindsided by them. They happen in a moment. One moment we aren't in one, the next moment we ARE in one. No pre-posturing possible. You just wake up in one. You take it on the chin. It’s all over you before you KNOW it. "Gottcha." You don't ask for them, nor can you avoid them. They just hit, always unannounced. Whether psychological or physical, it makes no difference, they are equally taxing to endure and manage.
Trials can range anywhere from someone's rude remark, to finding oneself in a stifling set of circumstances, to having to make an impossible scissors-choice decision, to becoming increasingly trapped in an unintended embroilment. Physically, they can ensnare you in momentarily being barely being able to draw your breath due to a pinched nerve, or being laid up for months after a total bang-up in a traffic accident. Trials can come in and give you a whirl, like pulling the string on a top, and be gone, or move in with you to stay, like Amy Carmichael's fall in a hole that lasted 20 years in bed, or like the slow erosion of a set of circumstances one can't get out of. What ARE these things, spiritually? Why the land mines?
C. S. Lewis said "Trials come to all mankind, but Christians USE their sufferings; pagans waste them." Apparently, trials accrue some benefit for the believer. Herein lies a mystery. In some inexplicable way, our hard patches aren't just hard patches! In the Scriptures there is a hint that for every trial a believer falls into, he will come out with INCREASED spiritual territory. It appears that the quit-claim deed to new territory IS the trial.
In Daniel, three Jewish lads were thrown into the fiery furnace but to their surprise, they met up with God himself IN there, and they came out un-singed—not even smelling like smoke. In addition, they gained a loud proclamation over the land that now everybody must believe in their God! Not bad for a short trip into unbelievably hot circumstances. Same with Daniel. He was dumped into the lions' den but was hauled out the next morning un-chewed, not even slobbered on, WITH the gain of the conversion of his king. Consider Job. In James we are told to think on the OUTCOME of his trial. Everything was restored double-fold. You may be tempted to say, "but not the children". But ah, yes, the children, too—godly Job will have his original children in eternity, plus seven MORE. Noah had HIS trial as an older man. He left terra firma, had a tangle with a tsunami, and landed unharmed. The first thing he did was worship. That might not have been on his schedule for that day, as SUCH a priority, ahead of dinner, without the boat-ride. Nebuchadnezzar's metamorphosis out of his beastly stupor resulted in an increased rock-solid adoration of God which wasn't gonna’ diminish anytime soon!
The key to gaining increased spiritual territory FROM trials seems to be what the believer does with the promises of God while IN the trial. All bets are off if one rails against God. But with a heart that says: "Though He slay me, YET will I trust Him" as Job said—and "NEVERTHELESS, even if we die in this furnace, we will believe in our God," or Esther's "If I perish, I perish," the outcomes are different. Redeemed, somehow. There is no wavering here. These believers are STANDING on something.
Here is an odd scripture. In Hebrews 11:39-40 it says: "They died without having RECEIVED the promises." It doesn't say that they didn't BELIEVE the promises right up to their last breath, or that they wavered on the promises. They just hadn't RECEIVED them—yet. We are assured here, by implication, that the promises ARE given. Where? When?
If the promises are not gained now (many promises ARE gained while still in this time frame—there have been millions of answers to prayers through the centuries) then the rest of them must be received yet in the future. The story is not over. Far from it. Our resurrected bodies are given BEFORE entering the promised land (Revelation 20:6). We gain them, to live in them during that last thousand years while He reigns on earth—else we couldn't REIGN with Him in the millennium—we wouldn't last in an unglorified body! So, too, the answers to the promises are given at that hour. Think about it. What promise would NOT be given? Think of even one. The promises go WITH the territory—with the transformation. We are told that "we shall NOT be ashamed" when we SEE Him (1 John 2:28), and entering into the millennium is WHEN we shall see Him. "His reward is with Him" (Isaiah 40:10 and 62:11). We eventually GET the outcomes of the trials of our faith—each and every one, specifically!
The promises of God are not fairy tales—they are an extension of His very nature. We are told that "All the promises of God are "yes" in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The promises of God are a direct expression of His will toward us—in every detail and area that they speak of. There can be no doubt. The devil stakes all his warfare upon the severity and DURATION of the trial. When the believer is like a "dog on a bone" holding fast to the promises of God—over the length of the trial—the reward is sure and his spiritual territory is always increased. In the face of a believer's unshakeable faith, the devil's wind goes out of him. He sizzles down into a heap of mild and increasingly meager protestations. Aha—so THAT is what these things are that hit the believer so out of the blue and temporarily throw him so off balance. They are but the lance leveled at the bulwark of our confidence. May it not prevail. Tighten your bite.