God’s Purposes in His Children’s Trials

There is nothing worse than a crushing trial. Since our natural inclination is to avoid discomfort, only authentic faith in Christ equips one to look beyond the valley of personal suffering to the pinnacle of suffering’s purposes. Maintaining this loftier perspective does not negate the reality or pain of walking through life’s valleys. A child of God, however, is able to face significant difficulties with sustained hope since God remains faithful in caring for His children.

(See God is Faithful)

Lamentations 3:21-23, But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

In His gracious, sovereign oversight, God uses all aspects in believers’ lives—including the greatest difficulties—to help them become more like Jesus.

Romans 8:28-29, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Becoming more Christ-like is the goal for believers in Christ. The realization of this goal is dependent on beliefs and associated responses that link directly to trials.

The linkage between trials and growing in Christ is clearly seen by referencing two passages of Scripture, one in Galatians and the other in 1 Corinthians. Some of the characteristics of Christ-likeness are described in the “fruit of the spirit” passage (Galatians 5:22-23). Another picture of Christ-likeness is in the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13). As you examine these two passages (below), ask yourself, “How can Christ-likeness be developed to its fullest potential apart from trials?” The obvious answer is, “It is not possible.”

Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Basically, if believers desire to grow in Christ, then trials are integral to their growth. This study will, hopefully, be used of the Lord to provide a broader perspective of God’s purposes in trials so that the singular response of “Lord, get me out of this problem” will change to “Lord, may your will be done in every dimension through this trial.”


Believers will experience trials that result in suffering for the cause of Christ (Romans 8:16-17, Philippians 1:29, 2 Timothy 3:12). These trials help believers to realize the value of knowing Christ and the righteousness that comes through faith in Him (Philippians 3:8-11). As children of God, believers will face Satan’s opposition. Believers can resist this defeated foe by remaining firm in their faith and by continually trusting God to work perfectly on their behalf (1 Peter 5:8-11).

Romans 8:16-17, The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Philippians 1:29, For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

Timothy 3:12, Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Philippians 3:8-11, Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

1 Peter 5:8-11, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.


God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond our full comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9). If believers fail to trust the Lord in a time of distress, they will “default” to the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19-20). On the other hand, as believers grow in Christ through their obedience to God’s Word, they will rejoice in trials since these situations are used by the Lord to foster spiritual growth, prove faith’s validity, and bring glory to Christ (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:6-7).

Isaiah 55:8-9For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Corinthians 3:19-20, For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Romans 5:3-5, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2-4, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Peter 1:6-7In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


Believers experience tribulations as part of life. Even so, Jesus promised peace to His disciples in any situation (John 16:33). Believers learn that the joy Jesus experienced in His suffering (Hebrews 12:1-3) is also available to them when they face difficulties. Jesus suffered unjustly and continued to trust God (1 Peter 2:19-25), setting an example for His believers to follow (Hebrews 12:3). With Christ in mind, believers can rejoice as they share His sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-13).

John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Hebrews 12:1-3, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted[Emphasis added]

1 Peter 2:19-25, For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. [Emphasis added]

1 Peter 4:12-13, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.


Believers are recipients of God’s comfort in any trouble and, as a result, are divinely enabled to comfort others in their difficulties.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

(See Testimony – My Trials Can Help Others)


Difficulties can make people turn to the Lord, and this is especially true of believers who know of God’s faithfulness and love. Yet, in God’s economy, His faithfulness and love are sometimes demonstrated by providing sufficient aid for a believer to withstand a difficulty instead of having the distress removed. When believers recognize this answer to prayer, their comfort results from knowing that God’s grace and strength are sufficient to carry them through any problem.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


God disciplines His children when they disregard His Word. This reproof is painful, but it produces Christ-likeness in believers who respond to the Lord’s discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-11, And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


God desires believers to bear spiritual fruit in an ever-increasing manner. For believers who are growing in Christ and producing spiritual fruit, the Lord desires greater fruitfulness. To obtain this increase, the Lord prunes faithful believers with a view to make them more effective for Him.

John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”


When troubles deplete physical resources, a natural response would be to limit any help to others that would reduce an already meager supply. On the other hand, when others’ needs overshadow the scarcity of personal resources, believers respond in love to assist others (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) and trust the Lord to supply their personal needs (2 Corinthians 9:8-10, Philippians 4:19).

2 Corinthians 8:1-5, We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

2 Corinthians 9:8-10, And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Philippians 4:19, And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.


Believers are to come alongside fellow believers who experience trials (Galatians 6:2; Romans 15:1). Prayer coupled with the encouragement of Scripture is always appropriate (Ephesians 6:16-18, James 5:16, 2 Corinthians 1:11, Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Additional responses may be needful as well, such as restoring the fallen (Galatians 6:1) or providing physical necessities (1 John 3:17-18).

Galatians 6:2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 15:1, We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Ephesians 6:16-18In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. [Emphasis added]

James 5:16, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Corinthians 1:11, You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Romans 15:4, For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Galatians 6:1, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

John 3:17-18, But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.


More often than not, believers do not experience painful trials in a vacuum. Others become aware of these difficulties and often notice the responses of believers. Believers are to be watchful for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ that are afforded in the midst of personal trials.

1 Peter 3:13-17, Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (Emphasis added)


Many challenges of life result from the behavior of self-centered people against others. When difficult people precipitate trials in the lives of believers, then believers can respond lovingly.

Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Romans 12:18-21, If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


In God’s economy, He allows trials to come into the lives of faithful believers so that others in the family of God will be encouraged, maintain hope, and be linked with one another through similar sufferings.

Ephesians 3:13, So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Corinthians 1:6-7, If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.


There are significant trials in the lives of believers, but none of them can separate believers from the love of God. Furthermore, believers can be more than conquerors through Christ in every challenge that comes their way.

Romans 8:35-39, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11, But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.


Some trials are so intense that the initial response of believers is to lose hope, even of their physical existence. These seemingly overpowering burdens bring believers to rely on God alone instead of trusting in their own capabilities.

2 Corinthians 1:8-10, For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.


God’s Word states that sufferings pale in comparison to the glory of God that will be revealed (Romans 8:18). Even so, difficulties can reveal natural limitations, exhaust physical resources, and reduce one’s physical and emotional strength. Believers, however, can continue to grow spiritually as they look forward to eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The burdens and suffering created by trials help to remind a believer that it will not always be this way. God’s eternal plan comes to eventual fruition when the new earth becomes the dwelling place of God and the effects of trials and suffering are no more (Revelation 21:1-4).

Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Corinthians 4:16-18, So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:1-4, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”


God’s Word contains three kinds of victory with regard to trials: deliverance from the difficulty (2 Corinthians 1:10), development in the difficulty (John 15:1-2; James 1:2-4), and physical death caused by the difficulty (Philippians 1:19-21, Acts 7:54-60 records the martyrdom of Stephen, Matthew 14:1-12 records the martyrdom of John the Baptist). In Hebrews 11:32-38, these three types of victory are mentioned.

Corinthians 1:10, He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

John 15:1-2, I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

James 1:2-4, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Philippians 1:19-21, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Hebrews 11:32-38, And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

(See Three Victories in Trials)


While rewards for believers may not be evident in this life, they are promised by God in the life to come (James 1:11-12, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, Revelation 2:10).

James 1:11-12, Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (emphasis added)

Timothy 4:7-8, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Revelation 2:10, Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.


With so many sovereign purposes related to trials, believers are to trust the Lord for His will to be done in and through every aspect of life (Proverbs 3:5-8). Believers cannot initially know the scope of God’s purposes in trials, but they can be assured that God’s Word provides sure guidance in all of life’s challenges (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In every trial, believers can rejoice, be patient, and continually pray (Romans 12:12, Philippians 4:4-7) while demonstrating their love for Christ by remaining obedient to Scripture (John 14:15).

Proverbs 3:5-8, Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Romans 12:12, Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Philippians 4:4-7, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
As believers realize that trials are an integral part of life and that God is in control, they can rest in His sovereign goodness and faithfulness in accomplishing His purposes in their lives.
(See Trusting in God in Trials Out of Our Control)


God’s Purposes in His Children’s Trials © 2009 WordTruth, Inc—http://www.wordtruth.net Page 7 Verses from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version © 2001Version by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers