When I go through trials (particularly ones that threaten to impose major consequences on my ability to live independently), the Lord calls me to look to the cross, rather than to myself, remembering both the doctrine of human depravity and the doctrine of atonement. Actually, sometimes even minor trials expose my sinful attitudes and therefore my desperate need for a Savior. I’m quite sure that the Lord, wanting to remind me of His grace, places various trials in my life to help me look at the depth of my sin.
In seeing how hopelessly ingrained sin is in me–how it permeates every fiber of my being, I well understand the anguish of the apostle Paul.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:14-25 (ESV)
Like Paul, I do desire to live in obedience to the Lord, and too see evidence of His Spirit’s fruit in my life. Sadly, trials generally serve to expose my carnal nature, manifested (of course) in a variety of sinful attitudes and behaviors that, quite frankly, turn my stomach. In summary, I can’t escape the fact that I am completely and thoroughly vile.
Yet Paul, in verse 25, shifts the spotlight away from himself and on to Christ. Christ took the punishment for Paul’s incessant sin, as well as for mine. So often, I’ve written about the atonement. And when the Holy Spirit confronts me with my sins, He also wants me to remember that I must rest in the Gospel. My attitudes and behavior assuredly stink, but they bring me back to the very heart of the Gospel, showing me my absolute dependence on His cleansing blood! He alone liberates me from the judgment I deserve because He bore my judgment when He hung on that cross.
Nobody enjoys going through trials. I’m no different. But The Lord uses our trials to accomplish two purposes. First, He uses them to show us that our old sin nature rebels against our new birth in Christ. And second, He again calls us to rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross. What a gracious God we serve!