Feb 27, 2013
This morning I am facing a trial. It would not be appropriate for me to give the details. But I’m feeling worry and stress.
In the past I have thought about writing on whether trials are from Satan or from God. And what could be a better time for this than when I’m in the midst of a trial?
So here goes —
From Satan Or God?
Is this trial an attack from Satan? Or has it been purposefully allowed by God? The reason we ask is because if it’s from Satan, we will seek to resist it, pray against it, and try to overcome it.
But if it’s from God, we will seek to accept it, surrender to His will, and rejoice through it.
So which is it?
Some Trials Are Clearly From Satan
We can see that from many Scriptures —
- Luke describes a woman whose spine had been bent over for 18 years by an evil spirit (Luke 13:11).
- Paul says the Evil One fires flaming darts at us (Eph 6:16).
- Paul says Satan hindered him from visiting the Thessalonians (1Th 2:18).
- Paul said his thorn in the flesh was a messenger from Satan to harass him (2Cor 12:7).
So some trials are clearly from Satan. But the Bible also says —
Some Trials Are Clearly From God
There are many examples —
- Peter says if we suffer for doing good it’s because God willed it (1Pe 3:17).
- The psalmist says God “afflicts us in faithfulness” (Psa 119:75).
- Moses says it’s ultimately God who allows people’s sicknesses (Exo 4:11).
- Amos says that if disaster comes to a city the Lord has done it (Amos 3:6).
So some trials are clearly from Satan, and some clearly from God. But then we have to ask —
Which Are From Satan, And Which Are From God?
The Bible shows us something puzzling: the same trial can be both from Satan and from God.
Take Job’s trials. His oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels were stolen or killed; his servants were killed; his children were killed; his health was destroyed.
So where did these trials come from?
They were clearly from Satan, since they came to Job from Satan’s hand (Job 1:12; Job 2:6).
But they were also from God, because Satan had to get permission from God to do them (Job 1:12; Job 2:6).
So even though Satan brought the trials, Job said “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) and “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
So if someone asked Job — Are your trials from Satan or God? — he would have answered — Both. They were from both Satan and God.
And that’s what we see is true of every trial.
Every Trial Is From Satan
Look at the following Scriptures —
- Paul says the Christian life means wrestling against spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). Which means in some way our wrestling is always against Satan.
- Peter says that when we suffer we need to resist Satan who is seeking to devour us like a lion (1Pet 5:8-9). So in some way all our suffering involves Satan.
- James says that when we are tempted by friendship with the world and pride we must resist the devil (Jam 4:4-7). Which makes it sound like all temptation involves Satan.
But the Bible also teaches that —
Every Trial Is From God
This truth is harder to understand. And it’s especially difficult if you are right in the middle of a heart-breaking trial. But it is taught throughout God’s Word, and when rightly understood it brings deep comfort.
- In Isa 45:7 God says He brings us both well-being and calamity; which means everything in our lives ultimately comes from Him either directly or by permission.
- Paul says every affliction we will ever face has been destined for us by God (1Thess 3:2-3).
- Paul says God will only allow us to be tempted in ways we can handle, which shows that every temptation is allowed by God (1Cor 10:13).
So every trial is from both Satan and God. But not in the same way. There are —
One difference involves sovereignty. Every trial is brought to us by Satan. But Satan can only do this by God’s permission. Which means every trial is ultimately under God’s wise, loving, and sovereign control.
The other difference involves purpose. Satan’s purpose for every trial is to weaken our faith and take us farther from God. But God’s purpose for every trial is to strengthen our faith and draw us nearer to Him.
What This Means For Us
This morning I’m facing a trial that’s small. But some of you are facing trials that are huge — the loss of a loved one, years of unemployment, chronic pain, or worse. So how should we respond to trials?
- Don’t wonder if they are from Satan or God. They are from Satan’s hand by God’s wise, loving, and sovereign permission.
- Understand that Satan’s purpose for this trial is to weaken your faith and take you farther from God.
- Resist Satan’s purpose by coming to Christ as you are, trusting Him to be all you need. Ask Him to strengthen and comfort you through His Word. Pray over His promises until you feel the Holy Spirit changing your heart.
- Understand that God’s purpose for this trial is to strengthen your faith and draw you nearer to God. Sometimes He does this by delivering you from the trial, since this can show you more of who He is. So humbly and earnestly ask for this.
- Realize that sometimes God chooses to have the trial stay, as a way of giving you even more of Himself. So pray over God’s promises until the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith and you experience Christ as your all-satisfying Treasure.
A Final Word of Comfort
Here’s what Peter says to his readers who are suffering —
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1Peter 5:10)
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- How God Comforted Hudson Taylor
- Facing Trials? Here’s Hope (“Be Still My Soul” worship video)
- Asking Why? Here’s God’s Loving Purpose For Every Trial
- Does God Ordain Every Trial?
(Picture is by Gustav Dore and in the public domain.)