Week 2, Day 3: Trials

The question is not whether you have experienced loss,

but rather how you live your losses.

- Henri Nouwen

FAIL. I remember the shock of discovering I hadn’t passed one of my college classes. It was one of the first things I had failed and it was a class I needed to complete in order to proceed to my final year. It meant I would have to study all summer to prepare to retake the exam before the fall. I remember feeling the shame of failing a class, as well as the creeping thoughts of being a failure — one who fails. I remember the mental spiral my brain would engage in as I wondered what would happen if I didn’t pass the final exam.

Failing the exam the first time was a humbling, chastening experience. I needed it. I had gotten overconfident and lazy with my studies. Failing the exam was what woke me up and gave me the impetus to apply myself in school — and beyond as well. Though I hated the feeling and the experience, it gave me an opportunity to respond, to choose a different path.

How do you feel about challenges? Do they excite you or frighten you? Do you run toward them or away from them? Do you love them or hate them? However you feel about them, challenges are a part of life. You have almost certainly experienced a number of them already — including, perhaps, some you’d rather forget. But challenges — both the ones we overcome and the ones that overcome us — can define us.

Other words we could use for ‘challenges’ might be ‘conflict’ or ‘trials.’ Here are what two writers, one ancient and one contemporary, say about conflict and trials. Author Ursula Le Guin  wrote, “If you evade suffering, you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. You will not know what it is to come home. … Even pain counts.” James, the brother of Jesus, put it this way, in James 1:2-4 (The Message):

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

READ: GENESIS 39:1-20

Joseph, it seems, can’t catch a break. He’s sold by his brothers into slavery. Then, when things begin to look up, he’s falsely accused of rape by his master’s wife when he was simply doing the right thing and not sleeping with her. And now, he’s sitting in Pharaoh’s prison.

J.K. Rowling’s manuscript for Harry Potter was turned down by a dozen publishers before being finally picked up. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple. Bill Gates’ first company was a failure. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school. James Dyson made 5,127 bad prototypes before perfecting his bagless vacuum. Walt Disney was told he wasn’t creative enough. 

Everyone experiences trials, but not everyone faces them, survives them, learns from them, and keeps growing. Today, we’ll take an honest look at the trials that have defined us.

REFLECT & RESPOND

  • Head: What are the most pivotal conflicts, challenges, or trials that you’ve experienced in your life? How have they shaped you?

  • Heart: What was the trial that left you most devastated? What was the trial that left you most energized?

  • Hands: Take a picture of something that reminds you of resilience.

PRAY

Thank God for helping you through the trials of your life, whether you thrived in them or just survived.

Everyone experiences trials,

but not everyone truly faces them.

© 2020 by Justin B. Fung

Christ City Church, Washington, D.C.