When Trials Come
In Isaiah 43:1, God is speaking to His redeemed people Israel through the prophet Isaiah. The following verse primarily applies to redeemed Israel, but it extends to all believers who have been redeemed by God’s salvation in Christ. God says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (v. 2). Notice that God does not say if you pass through waters, rivers, and fire, but rather, when you pass through them. There is no reason to be angry with God when trials come; there is no reason to wonder if you did something to bring it upon yourself, and there is no reason to believe that God has stopped loving you for some reason. Suffering and trials come to all people because we live in a fallen world. Affliction is a result of original sin in Genesis 3. So no matter who we are or what our situation is, difficulties will come into our lives at some point. We know that God is speaking of trials and difficulties because He cannot literally mean that we can play with fire and not be burned. The waters, rivers, and fire represent perhaps levels of trials and difficulties in this life. But what is most astonishing is that God makes three promises to us no matter how difficult our circumstances are.
God is Present With Us
First, God says that when we pass through the waters, “I will be with you.” Do you realize that in your suffering God is present with you? God is omnipresent, meaning He is in all places at all times. But did you know He is specifically present with and in believers at all times? As the people of Israel were instructed to cross the Jordan and take their land, God said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). In Psalm 23 we read that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4). The very last words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20 say, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And again, Jesus tells His disciples upon His leaving that He, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18, 20). No matter what difficulty we are going through, God is with us. He has not left us; He has not abandoned us, and He has not ceased to love us. He is always present with us, even through suffering.
God is Preserving Us
Second, God says that when we pass through the rivers, “they shall not overwhelm you.” Right away you might be rolling your eyes saying, “But I often feel overwhelmed! How can God say He won’t let me be overwhelmed?” There is a difference between feeling overwhelmed and being overwhelmed. God’s promise is that He will never actually allow us to become overwhelmed, even though we often feel overwhelmed. God knows exactly how much we are able to handle. Through His providence, He upholds and preserves us: “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous” (Ps. 37:17). The Psalmist says the same thing in Psalm 145:14 saying, “The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” It is also said that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of His power” and “in him all things hold together.” (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17). No matter what comes our way, it is God who is upholding us, sustaining us, and preserving us. The strength to endure through trials comes from God. The means to endure through trials comes from God. The encouragement to endure through trials comes from God. Do you believe that God is the one sustaining and preserving you through trials? Does this truth bring you comfort? It does for me!
God is Protecting Us
The last thing we see in Isaiah 43:2 is that God promises that when we walk through the fire, “you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” It is God who is protecting us through the fiery furnace. Not only is God present with us and preserving us through trials, He also is protecting us through trials. This promise emphasizes God’s power in trials. It does not mean that nothing really bad will ever happen to us. It does not mean that the worst is impossible. But it does mean that God is protecting us by His power to whatever degree He sees best. God is always working all things together for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28). In the midst of difficulty, David declared that, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Ps. 18:2-3). Anytime the Psalmist describes God as a fortress, a stronghold, or a refuge, this exact truth is emphasized. God protects us from worse suffering than we are already going through. Puritan William Gurnall stated it this truth as a command: “It is the saints’ duty, and should be their care, not only to believe that God is Almighty, but also to strongly believe that his almighty power is engaged for our defense and help in all of our straits and temptations” (Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour, 1:28-30). In your suffering and difficulties, do you believe that God’s power is engaged for your defense and help through it all?
If you are in the midst of a trial or difficult circumstance, remember that God is the one who will always be present with you; God is the one who will preserve you and give you the strength to endure, and God is the one protecting you from anything worse. The Bible does not teach that life will be all love and bubbles. The Bible does not teach that we will always be healthy and wealthy. The Bible does not even teach us what to do if trials should come. Rather, the Bible teaches us what to do whentrials come, and it applies to all people. No matter where you are at in life, trials are coming at some point. For the believer, God promises to be there for us during those difficult times. Do not give up, but instead look to Him and trust in His promises.