Trials and struggles have made every one of us ask, at some point, Why?
Why did I lose my job? Why does my mother have cancer? Why did our house burn down? Why did my son get hit by a car? Why did my parents get divorced?
The list is painfully long.
When trials come, friends and family are ever ready to console us:
God is not punishing you, but He is teaching you lessons you need to learn.
When you are going through the ‘Refiner’s Fire,’ try to be positive because God is testing your character.
You will be a better person because of it.
Hold on, because soon you will have peace after the storm.
Just think, now you will have even greater strength for the next trial.
Some might even say something inspirational about footsteps in the sand, and they might be on to something.
But let’s ask ourselves this question: What if this trial has far less to do with my character, and far more to do with God’s character?
In Isaiah 48:10,11, God says:
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
At first glance, this passage can be very confusing. God says, “For My own sake…” Is He letting us pass through trials for His own sake? Isn’t that selfish?
Some may have no problem with the idea that God is selfish, but let me tell you they couldn’t be more wrong. No, let the Bible tell you: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Perfect love puts others before self; therefore selfishness cannot exist in God’s heart, because He is love.
Take one earnest look at the cross, and you will see no selfish God hanging there.
So if God is not being selfish in this passage, why does He say, “For My Own sake, I do it…”? What is He doing for His own sake?
A little context and Bible study may help us understand. In the previous verse, verse 9, God begins by saying:
For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Here God says that for His name’s sake, He defers and restrains His anger. Other translations read, “For the sake of my reputation…” If we read the context, God is not refining us for His name’s sake, but He is ‘restraining’ the full force of the trial for His name’s sake. What is it about His reputation that He is trying to prove?
In Malachi 3:6 God says:
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
There is something about God’s character that is unchanging, and because of it, we are not consumed or destroyed in the refiner’s fire.
God is love, and God never changes.
What then is God doing when He allows us to pass through the fire?
When we pass through trials, the purpose is not to vindicate our characters and prove that we are worthy and faithful. God’s purpose is to vindicate His own character by giving us a clearer picture of Himself in the midst of the trial. When we are in trials, we are more ready to depend on God’s faithfulness and not our own strength. We have more opportunities to see His love in action, as He sustains and carries us through. He proves Himself worthy, because He remains faithful to His promises to not cut us off or let us be consumed. All God’s promises in Christ are “Yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Therefore, He fulfills His promises to give us peace (Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27), to hold us up by His mercy (Psalm 94:18) and to bring us out of the trial to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:8-12). As He does this, God’s character is vindicated, and we come out of the trial with a clearer picture of God’s changeless heart of love.
The story of footsteps in the sand is not just an inspirational thought. It is an introduction to the fact that trials are not an exam that we pass or fail. They have far more to do with a Person who walks with us, who carries us, who loves us and who gave Himself for us on a hill called Calvary.
Trials are not allowed by God to prove that we are faithful. Trials are used by God to prove that He is faithful. When we are in trials, God is on trial in our hearts.
Instead of struggling to remain faithful in your trials, why not let God be the faithful one? Trust His love. Let Him vindicate His character in your heart. He will carry you through.