When evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side."
- Mark 4:35 NKJV
I first read about the concept of “intervening trials” several years ago, during my daily quiet time with the Lord. He spoke to my heart about the times when He will point His children in a certain direction, knowing that as we follow His lead, we will run into trouble and heartache, before we reach our destination and place of victory. There is a passage in Mark 4 that provides a good illustration of this spiritual principle.
Jesus had just finished a teaching session with the multitudes along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, when He told His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35 NKJV) As their boat headed out across the water, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.” (v.37) Where was Jesus while all this was happening? “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.” As the disciples begin to panic, they rouse Jesus and shout, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (v.38) Jesus rises up and rebukes the wind, and then He rebukes His disciples. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (v.40)
When obeying God leads us along the path of adversity, we mustn’t automatically think that we have missed God, or misinterpreted His directions. The truth is that many times, an “intervening trial” will come between us and the blessing that the Lord has for us “on the other side.” This is especially true if we have been standing on a promise or word from God. When Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, He says that “trouble and persecution comes because of the Word.” And He goes on to say that as a result, many people will “quickly fall away.” (Mark 4:17 NIV) The Savior reveals in this parable that it is Satan who comes to stir up trouble in order to get us to turn our backs on God’s Word. (v.15) That’s why many times, when God speaks a promise to our hearts, and we receive it and make the decision to lay hold of it, we begin experiencing problems that are meant to discourage us and deter us from standing firm till we gain the victory. How we respond to these “intervening trials” will determine whether we cross over to the other side to where our blessings are, or we sink in a sea of defeat and disappointment.
Suppose you see in God’s Word that because you have put your faith in Christ and received His precious gift of salvation, your family members will also be saved. (Acts 16:31) You decide to act on that promise and begin praying and standing on it for your loved ones’ salvation. But instead of your relatives getting better, they seem to be getting worse. You try to ignore all the signs that tell you that your loved ones are doomed to destruction, but their behavior is so appalling that you begin to doubt God’s Word. If you will recognize that it’s very likely that Satan is doing his best to discourage you from continuing to stand in faith for the victory, and if you’ll call upon God for help, and refuse to become offended and doubtful, you will witness the Lord moving mountains to fulfill His promise to you.
The Lord tells us: "Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice." (Isaiah 41:10 AMP) One of the ways that the Lord “hardens [us] to difficulties” is to allow us to encounter hardship and heartache as we seek to follow Him in obedience. If we never had opportunities to exercise our faith and trust in God during hard times, we would never grow spiritually, or come to know the Lord in deep and intimate ways. We would become arrogant and self-reliant, rather than humble and dependent upon the Lord’s wisdom, guidance, and grace. And we would never fulfill our God-given purpose or potential.
The Lord has extraordinary rewards and blessings “on the other side,” just waiting for you. Don’t “fall away” when trouble comes, and forfeit the good things God has in store for you. Start seeing your “intervening trials” as faith-building bumps in the road that God will use to your advantage and for His glory!
Prayer: Lord, help me to follow You wholeheartedly wherever You lead me. When I encounter trouble or heartache, remind me to rely on Your wisdom and strength, and not my own. Thank You that as I refuse to give up or give in, I will lay hold of all of the rewards, opportunities, and blessings You have in store for me!
- J. M. Farro