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It has been said, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Many people cling to this proverb as a source of comfort and hope amid daily anxieties, miseries, and afflictions. There is some truth in the statement, insofar as it reflects the teaching of Scripture (Rom. 5:3–5; James 1:2–4, 12; 1 Peter 4:12–19). Trials do indeed make us stronger and more steadfast in our faith. Trials mature us. They help us grow up. Yet this is only one part of the biblical understanding of trials.

When we as a human race fell into sin, our affections changed. We once had the ability not to sin, yet we became a people who cannot help but sin and who even find pleasure—however fleeting—in sin. As creatures, we are inherently dependent, but the fall changed our recognition of our dependence. We once recognized our dependence on our Creator and worshiped and served Him alone, yet we became a people who worship and serve ourselves as if we were entirely autonomous.

So when trials and temptations come, we must decide whether we will depend on ourselves and our own efforts or on God. Will we exploit the trial, make light of it, or try to run from it? Or will we run to our Lord as our closest companion and get on our knees in prayer and trust Him through the trial?

As the adopted children of God our Father, we recognize the trials He sovereignly sends our way are meant not only to make us stronger in Christ, but to make us weaker in self—less dependent on our own strength and schemes and more dependent on God and the power of His strength, just as Paul experienced, confessing, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Whatever doesn’t kill us, by God’s grace, makes us weaker in our self-dependence and more dependent on the strength of God. And this is all through the One who endured the trial of the cross so that we might regain a dependent life. By His grace alone, we remain utterly dependent—as we live justified by faith alone—on the One whose grace is utterly sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12:9), taking up our own crosses daily and dependently as we walk through the miseries of this life. As we do so, let us remember that the righteous shall live by faith in God, not by faith in self (Hab. 2:4). Martin Luther was indeed right to remind us, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.”

Newer Issue

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From the August 2023 Issue
Aug 2023 Issue