The Good Part of Trials

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. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 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 (Hebrews 12:5–7, esv)?

When life is hard, it’s for a purpose. Trials and difficult times in the life of a Christian are an opportunity to find out how big God is.

A trial can be small and irritating or huge and shattering. One can take you by storm, fast and furiously, altering life forever. Or it may be a hardship that stretches over months, years, or even decades.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for trial means “to prove by testing; an event that demonstrates the genuineness of your faith in Christ and refines the quality of your spiritual life.” And several biblical terms for trials are interchangeable—suffering, hardship, tribulation, chastising, and discipline. So let’s agree on this definition: a trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character.

Your conduct is what you do; your character is who you are. Trials are about what God wants to adjust in the actions you choose, and what He is working in your character to help you choose those actions. And if you’re one of God’s children, you are likely going through a trial right now, “For the Lord . . . chastises every son whom he receives” (v.6). Whether physical, relational, economic, emotional, or circumstantial, it’s the most difficult aspect of your life.

Hebrews 12:57 speaks to God’s involvement in that difficult thing. Here is His instruction: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord” (v.5b).

When God moves toward you to make changes in your conduct and character, don’t regard it lightly. Go ahead and do some heavy thinking. Don’t be casual or indifferent about His approach: I’m getting kind of weary of this. I don’t think God really knows my limits. No matter what painful hardship is yours right now, do not despise or regard lightly how the Lord is working. He is teaching you. And He knows what He’s doing.

When God is allowing something that makes your life hard, remember “the Lord disciplines the one He loves” (v.6a). It’s like parental instruction. A child’s desires are no guide for healthy growth. But a loving and wise parent knows their child will benefit from certain discomforts and, at times, even a measured amount of pain.

God’s role is that of your heavenly Father: “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?” (v.7). God loves you. And when He saved you, He started a process He will continue until the day you meet Him in heaven (Philippians 1:6). Salvation was just the beginning. Today He is working in you through your trials—for your good and for His glory.


  • What can you identify as a trial in your life right now?
  • How would you describe the lessons you’ve learned about God so far in that trial?

Heavenly Father, thank You for not insisting I enjoy or like my trials—and even more, thank You for teaching me You can provide joy in the midst of them. Help my hope to remain in You when life is hard. Forgive me for times when I slip into self-pity or doubt about Your faithfulness. A few moments of reflection are enough to remind me that You are always faithful—please use that reminder to turn what is difficult into a great confidence in Your closeness. I thank You for of all this in Jesus’ name, amen.