Looking back now, did I consider it joy? Not the experience. But the fact that I had been transformed in the trial from an independent, self-sufficient woman to a woman of utter dependence on God was reason to celebrate.

You may never experience a close call in the life of your child. But you  may  experience the death of someone you love, the pain and bitterness of divorce, the disappointment of hopes never materializing, the absence of love from the man you wanted the most. Your trials may come during certain seasons of life, like when you're newly married and find you can't have children, or when you've been married 20 years and find your husband has become a stranger. Or your trials may consist of frustrations that bombard you on a daily basis: experiencing hassles at home, not having enough money to pay the bills, being asked to do the impossible, or seeing your plans fall through.

Whether they be complicated or simple, with long-term effects or temporary, trials and frustrations can hinder our spiritual growth, causing bitterness, self-pity and emotional hang ups, or they can be catalysts for growth and maps to finding eternal treasure.

The Bible says "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)." The following verse lists the reason we can confidently say that all things -- including trials and frustrations -- work together for our good: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son...." (Romans 8:28-29).

Those whom God "foreknew" are the believers  who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. And those believers, the verse says, were chosen before the foundation of the world to become like Jesus in every way.

That is how all things work together for good in our lives. That is the silver lining in our sufferings -- the fact that God is using our pain and frustrations to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus.

Jesus experienced many trials. The prophet Isaiah called him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). He experienced poverty  (2 Corinthians 8:9), homelessness (Matthew 8:20), criticism (Mark 2:16), rejection (Matthew 11:20), betrayal by a friend (John 18:15), temptation (Matthew 4:1), and a need to be alone (Luke 6:12; John 6:15). He was also grieved (Matthew 26:38), falsely accused (Mark 3:22), conspired against (Mark 3:6), and beaten and humiliated (Matthew 26:67). Yet with all the frustration He encountered, He never sinned. He never doubted His Father's love. He never threw up His hands and called it quits.  

In facing difficulties and frustrations, we can better relate to Jesus by learning how to respond to our situations as He would have. That is conforming to His image. And that conforming, that transformation of our character, is the treasure that lies buried within our turmoil.

Isaiah 45:3 says "And I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the Lord... who calls you by your name."

Be comforted knowing there are "treasures of darkness" and "hidden wealth" in the secret places of your pain … and be encouraged that it's all so we will really know God and become more like His Son.

September 2009

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of several books, including ‘When Women Walk Alone' (more than 100,000 copies sold). For more on her ministry, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.