Catholic Candle note: The article below is a reminder of the benefit we receive from the trials that God sends us.
This article is a “companion piece” to Catholic Candle’s prior article, Strategies for Lightening the Crosses You Now Have, which can be found here:
St. John Chrysostom gives five reasons why God permits us to undergo trials and tribulations, even very severe ones. Here are his words:
Whoever thou art then that after thy baptism sufferest grievous trials, be not troubled thereat; for this thou receivest arms, to fight, not to sit idle. God does not hold all trial from us:
· firstly, that we may feel that we are become stronger;
· secondly, that we may not be puffed up by the greatness of the gifts we have received;
· thirdly, that the Devil may have experience that we have entirely renounced him;
· fourthly, that by it we may be made stronger; and
· fifthly, that we may receive a sign of the treasure entrusted to us; for the Devil would not come upon us to tempt us, did he not see us advanced to greater honors.
Let us examine each of these reasons why God permits us to suffer trials.
1. God permits us to undergo trials that we might feel that we become stronger.
We need encouragement and (reasonable) confidence in spiritual battles. If we never fight spiritual battles, we will be afraid to do so. We would wonder “how would I do?” Because of this insecurity, we would shrink back like cowards from future spiritual battles that God wishes us to fight, for His glory and for our reward.
An army’s general values his battle-tested and battle-hardened soldiers because they know from experience that they can succeed and they know what they must do in order to succeed. Those veteran soldiers gain in courage and confidence by fighting battles, so that they feel ready to fight future battles.
Similarly, Christ, our “General” in the Church Militant, gives us trials to help us Soldiers of Christ to be battle-tested and battle-hardened spiritual warriors. Through trials, we test our spiritual armaments, our (spiritual) combat skills, and our strength in the spiritual battles of this life. We learn by experience that the devil cannot conquer us provided that we do not let him do so (by consenting to sin). We know that, with God’s help and if we do our part, we will conquer all demons.
For this reason, God sends us trials so that we might gain courage and (reasonable) confidence that we are able to fight life’s spiritual battles for God’s glory and for the salvation of souls.
2. God permits us to undergo trials that we may not be puffed up by the greatness of the gifts we have received.
When we are inside our home while a wild storm rages outside, we feel secure, like a sailor looking out from the security of a safe harbor at a storm raging at sea. By contrast, when a sailor is caught out at sea, with his ship almost capsizing, fighting for survival amidst the buffeting waves, then he remembers that he needs God and that his own efforts are very weak and small.
Let us apply that principle to the spiritual life:
The angelic spirits are truly awesome – greatly exceeding our comprehension:
❖ The angelic nature is so great that it would be a greater thing for us to understand the nature of the lowest angel than it would be for us to know everything about all material creation combined.
❖ The lowest angel is so powerful that he could very easily destroy all of material creation, if God permitted him to do so.
The devils have such very high angelic natures. Their rebellion against God did not change the greatness of their natures.
Suppose we found all trials to be easy. Suppose that, for us, avoiding temptation was “child’s play” and that when the devil tempted us, we could simply “snap our fingers in the devil’s face” (as it were) and that we could prevail against his temptations without need to make any serious effort to resist him.
If all trials were so easy for us, our pride would grow exceedingly. Thus, God lovingly sends us the precious gift of trials in order to deflate our pride by forcing us to fight hard for the life of our souls, in the spiritual storms that rage in this world.
It is during spiritual trials that we best know that we need God’s help. At such times, we best remember that we are small and weak and that we are not the great spiritual champions that we would otherwise imagine ourselves to be. We remember then that we would be deluding ourselves to think that we can terrorize all devils and put them to flight because of our great holiness and spiritual power.
For this reason, God sends us trials – including severe trials – in order that these trials would remind us of our weakness so that we do not get puffed up by the magnificent spiritual gifts that God gives to us Catholics who follow the full traditions of the Church.
3. God permits us to undergo trials in order that the Devil may have experience that we have entirely renounced him.
It is appropriate that the devil should have discernable evidence that we belong to God and are soldiers in His army. It is fitting that the devil sees that the soldiers of Christ fight for Him and that the devil sees that we fulfill our baptismal vows to “renounce Satan and all of his works and pomps”.
It befits the Divine honor that we, who are Our Lord’s servants and friends, do not render Him service which is so indiscernible that the devil is able to mock Our Lord that he can’t even tell that we are serving the Divine Majesty.
God must not only triumph in us but must also be seen to triumph in us. This is good and fitting just as it is good and fitting that, at the end of the world, not only will justice be done at the General Judgment but also that it will be seen to have been done.
Thus, God sends us trials to make manifest that we belong to Him and not to the devil.
4. God sends us grievous trials in order that, by this spiritual combat, we can be made stronger.
A soldier is given weapons in order that he can fight. If he were not supposed to fight, he would not have been given weapons. If he were supposed to remain idle, he would have been given pillows instead of weapons.
Similarly, St. John Chrysostom teaches us that we Soldiers of Christ receive spiritual weapons for the very purpose of we fighting God’s battles in the trials He sends us. St. John Chrysostom teaches us that God wants us “to fight, not sit idle”. Id.
Just as hard physical exercise causes our bodily muscles to gain strength, likewise grievous spiritual trials and tribulations strengthen our “spiritual muscles”. That is, our wills gain strength in virtue through hard spiritual work.
We should welcome the trials that God sends. We should generously enter into the penitential times (e.g., Lent, Ember Days, vigils of high feasts, Advent), valuing them as opportunities and as blessings, not as misfortunes which we must endure. We should not approach such times with a stingy heart, doing the minimum required, and making as little change in ourselves as possible.
We should look upon penitential times as occasions of great liberty, freeing ourselves from the burden of our lower nature which pulls us downward. We should also view the Great Apostasy in which we live as a blessing and as a trial meant for our good. For we know that such trials “work together unto the good, for those who love God”. Romans, 8:28.
Thus, God sends us trials in order to make us stronger in His service.
5. God permits us to undergo trials that we may receive a sign of the treasure entrusted to us; for the Devil would not come upon us to tempt us, did he not see us advanced to greater honors.
Suppose we inherited an old painting of little apparent value from a distant relative. As we receive it, suppose we also receive an offer from a rich art collector to purchase it for $25 million. That offer would cause us to regard this painting much differently. We would keep it safe and not throw it away or otherwise disregard it.
Suppose we learned that an art thief planned to steal that painting. We would take great care to not allow this valuable possession to be stolen.
Analogously, we possess a far greater treasure: sanctifying grace (which is always accompanied by Charity and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost). That grace is infinitely valuable, although it can seem to people that it is like that old worthless-seeming painting we inherited.
However, when we know that the devil is trying to “steal” this priceless treasure from our souls, it helps us to remember the incomparable value of grace. Just as the art thief’s desire to steal our painting warns us of the value of that painting and reminds us to protect it from theft, likewise, the devil’s desire to “steal” the grace in our soul reminds us to take all precautions to protect the life of grace.
Thus, we see that God permits the devil to tempt us through trials to remind us of the infinite value of the grace we have in our souls.
Let us appreciate the trials and tribulations that our Dear Lord generously gives us!
Let us value them more than all material goods and more than a life of ease, since those trials are a crucial means for our salvation.
Let us thank God for those trials and use them for God’s greater honor and glory and for maximum merit!
 Catena Aurea on St. Matthew ch.4, v.1. St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, chooses and quotes these words of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church, from St. John’s sermon #13 on St. Matthew’s Gospel.
 Here is how the Roman philosopher Lucretius explained the comfortable security that a person has when he sees others, but not himself, undergoing great tribulations:
Pleasant it is, when on the great sea, the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another’s great tribulation: Not because any man’s troubles are a delectable joy, but because to perceive what ills you are free from yourself is pleasant.
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book II, line 1.
 This time of Great Apostasy is a glorious time to be Catholic and to live for Christ the King!