“For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Psalm 66:10–13

Many have wondered why God lets His people suffer, especially good and faithful saints. There is rarely a definitive answer that can be divined to put to rest the agony of the struggling soul. Whether the trials are explainable or inexplicable, there is enough insight revealed in the Word that begins to unravel the knotty question and to expose the trustworthy purposes of God in allowing trial to befall His beloved.

Our passage from Psalm 66 is certainly speaking of the nation of Israel, but the principles and emotions are just as applicable to the individual. There is a title given to the chapter in my Bible: “Praise to God for His Awesome Works” and yet right in the middle of the chapter are the verses quoted above. Testing trials, refining fires, trapping nets, burdened backs, trampling enemies, and rampaging fire and water are the experiences of His people. It is certain that there is some level of burden you are bearing. Whatever may be your particular “cross” there is this clear light at the end of the tunnel that is provided by the last words quoted: “but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” There is always, for every saint, the promise of abundance at the end. It was true for Job in earthly measure and it will be true for you by heavenly measure to be sure, God has so promised.

It is quite natural for every saint who finds himself burdened by trial to first ask, “Lord, have I sinned that this has come upon me?” Trials may come because of the chastening hand of our good, heavenly Father. But even if a trial is a result of sin, the saint is reminded that God only chastens His own. Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.” Sin leaves a bitter taste while being chastened. Psalm 90:7f states, “For we are consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.” Psalm 102:9f states, “For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping because of Your indignation and wrath; for You have lifted me up and cast me away.” It is at the moment of repentance that the chastened saint begins to reckon that what he is suffering is but a small measure of what our Savior bore upon Himself upon the cross. Isaiah 53:5 declares, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed!” There is comfort to be found even in the “rod and staff” of the Good Shepherd.

If no unconfessed and unforsaken sin comes to mind, the suffering saint is left with the conclusion that His heavenly Father has designed this refining crucible specifically to His purposes and under His direct supervision. God is all-wise and has much to teach His beloved child. It is very easy to forget that God has been planning for this trial, and others yet to come, for quite some time. Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them.” Be assured that though you may be blindsided by a trial, God has been preparing, as Philippians 4:19 says: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He knows the outcome. He has planned, as Philippians 1:6 reminds us, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:28ff).

By the same token, it is hard to fight becoming embittered in the middle of trial. Proverbs 3:11f reads, “My son, do not despise [reject] the chastening of the LORD; nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” Some trials are so severe and so overwhelming that it can only be the work of the Holy Spirit directly exerted upon the suffering saint that regularly replaces bitterness of soul (the work of the flesh) with the fragrant Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19ff), just when it is needed.

Of course, the Proverbs passage is further expounded upon in Hebrews 12:5–11 culminating with this great promise: “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Paul puts it this way, in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

You may right now be in the very driest desert you have ever experienced with an unreachable horizon that blends in with a blistering sky, but remember the last chapter of your life is yet to be written. The story, God’s story regarding you, has yet to be ended. Read the final words to Psalm 66 (vv. 16–20) which include, “Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” (1 Peter 1:7, 4:12; Revelation 2:3; Job 23:10). Trust and obey.