What if our trials were categorized like stages of cancer? The initial premise seems to make sense; Stage One if the trial is of the ankle-biter variety, Stage Two if it’s fixed with money or time, at Stage Three things look grievous and Stage 4: see Job. Upon delving deeper one realizes we are too complex for this type of simple definition. For instance some simple childhood trauma like being called names or having the friend next door move away; these things could scar you well into adulthood. The tendrils of early trials, coupled with our own brokenness, will touch down over and over again compared to a trial that is harsh, quick and free of scarring.
As complex as the trial is the heart that hopes. Hope too isn’t weighted equally to each trial; at times we feel overwhelmed at the slightest thing—say a flat tire on the way to work. In the face of severe hardship we may find that we have grown deep roots after all and that hope is there to sustain us and it’s richer and more tangible than ever imagined.
I heard Dennis Prager say that he wouldn’t know how to offer hope to those in the direst of circumstances; a Jew in a concentration camp, a nun in a gulag or a saint being tortured for their faith. I understand the sentiment but still deep in my gut a shout went up: there is always hope!
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God…,” So Job states that God will vindicate him and Job will see Him in glory. Though we go through the worst of trials the splinter of hope we have will be enjoying God in Heaven. Habakkuk sees a “day of distress” when his people are invaded by a foreign army leaving them nothing and his final song is “still I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on high places.”
I have not experienced a Stage 4 trial. Still I believe that as complex, bruised and broken as we are God will allow a ray of joy to fall into whatever darkness we face.