“What does eternal life mean to you?” For many years the answer would have been for me— and I would imagine for many people “heaven”.  That changed for me when I read John17:3:  “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” God’s desire for us is that we know Him; when we come to experientially, personally know Him we go from death to life.

One of the reasons that the Lord leads us to and through trials is so we can come to really know Him. It is through trials that we often come to recognize our great need for Him and understand aspects of His character, His holy ways, and His amazing love for us.

The apostle Paul experienced countless trials as he obeyed God’s call on his life.  Before becoming a Christian he had everything the world considers valuable. Yet, he states in Philippians 3:8-11: 

“…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…”

Do you too consider everything garbage (literally ‘dung’) compared to knowing Christ Jesus?  There was a time when like Paul, I considered the things of this world of great value. But then I came to know Jesus, and realized that all I truly desire in life is found in knowing Him intimately. 

I fervently prayed that He would reveal Himself to me and that I would be conformed more and more into His image. I admit that it didn’t occur to me that the answer to my prayer would necessitate suffering.  It was in the midst of a great trial that I came to understand that since Jesus was a “suffering servant” Who “learned obedience through the things He suffered”, that if I was to understand and become more like Him that I too would have to experience trials and suffering. 

When I experienced a gut-wrenching betrayal by someone whom I had considered a close friend and was reeling from emotional pain, I heard in my spirit, “You asked to be conformed to my image.  Look to the cross. I know what it feels like to be betrayed by those you love. I chose to endure betrayal for your sake. Allow your suffering to draw you closer to me.”

In that instant, the pain of my betrayal actually became a blessing and gift to me! God used it to reveal to me how great His love is for me. I realized that He loved me so much that He chose the pain of betrayal that He experienced when Judas betrayed him and Peter and all the disciples forsook Him at the time of His greatest need.  He gave me the privilege of allowing me in a very small measure to be a “partaker of His suffering”. I came to know Him and the depth of His love in a way that I never could have without going through that trial. 

That incident also taught me to appreciate that God often uses trials in our lives to reveal Himself to us in ways that we never could comprehend without suffering. If there is no perceived need for Him, we may not look to Him or appreciate all that He is.  If we never stop to consider what it cost Him to bring about our salvation, we can easily take His love for granted.

For example, although this list is far from comprehensive it gives us a few examples of Who Jesus is. You will only come to know Him in the following ways if you recognize your need of Him:

 As your Refuge if you are in need of safety

As Shepherd if you need guidance. 

As The Great Physician if you have need of healing

As Your Strength if you are weak

As Your Provider if you are in want of something

As Your Comforter if you are experiencing loss

As Your Encourager if you are downcast

As Your Rock if you are needing security and steadfastness

As Your Savior if you know you need saving

What trial has the Lord allowed you to experience in order for you to know His character and love even better? What are you going through right now that He wants to use to draw you even closer to Him and to His heart of love for you?

Written by Julie Van Gorp