By Kelley Easley
Who would’ve thought that the Holy Spirit could use the experience of caulking a bathtub to teach me something about the value of trials? For months on end, our bathtub had been a source of stress to me. The grout had largely worn off, and mildew was taking its place. It badly needed to be re-caulked, and even though I watched a few YouTube videos demonstrating the process, I lacked the confidence to attempt to do it myself.
This weekend, however, my dad came into town with plans to help. He purchased the supplies, gave me a small demonstration of his own, and then told me to get to work. It wasn’t easy at first. In fact, it was quite nerve wracking because I feared doing it wrong and ending up with an even worse result. I whined and complained and hoped he’d notice and just take over. But he didn’t. He wanted me to learn how to do it for myself so that I could do it on my own in the future.
So I stuck with it (he didn’t give me any other option) and completed the task. As I went, the work got easier. I became less scared of failure and more confident in the process. It didn’t take nearly as long as I had imagined it would. We still have some scraping to do tomorrow, but already, the bathtub looks worlds better!
After we wrapped up work on that project for the day, I went outside to mow the front yard. Now, we don’t have a huge yard, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. It has a slight hill and requires a decent amount of effort to mow. And we just have a push mower, not a riding mower. Before my husband lost his job, we had lawn care. I never expected I’d be out there mowing. But even though it takes up a good amount of time to do the front and back yard, I have to admit feeling a certain sense of accomplishment doing it.
As I was mowing today, I began to reflect on my experience caulking the bathtub. Although it was stressful to me at the time, I had to acknowledge that I also felt proud of myself for sticking with it and learning a new skill that is sure to come in handy again in the future. These two personal challenges became connected in my mind. Both had seemed like unpleasant inconveniences at the time, but both afforded me an opportunity for growth. Of course, I’m only talking about growth in a practical sense, but I think there are some spiritual parallels here.
In James 1:2-4 (NASB), the Apostle James instructs us:
“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I understand that to mean that when I face any sort of difficulty, I should view it as an opportunity to grow stronger in my faith. That is, as I take my requests to Him, and trust Him to respond—and then watch Him respond and provide for that need—my faith grows. And as my faith grows, I learn to endure, knowing that He is in control and will meet my needs.
Just as the challenges of an unsightly bathtub and a lack of professional lawn care caused me to have to develop the skills necessary to handle those problems myself, from a spiritual standpoint, trials strengthen our spiritual “muscles.”
But instead of training us to better handle things on our own, trials strengthen our faith, enabling us to better trust Him to handle the obstacles in our path. Each new trial is an opportunity to quicken our response time in terms of looking to Him instead of looking to ourselves. And every time we see Him deliver us from—or through—our trials, we become better equipped to hold on, or endure, the next time we find ourselves facing overwhelming circumstances and awaiting His deliverance.
In 1 Peter, chapter 5, the Apostle Peter warns his readers to be vigilant in guarding against the devil. In verse 9, he urges them to remain “steadfast in the faith” as they endure suffering, and in verse 10, he encourages them with these words:
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (NKJV)
Peter’s words here, regarding the capacity for trials to strengthen our faith, mirror those of James. The language is very similar. James speaks of trials producing endurance, which in turn results in our being made “perfect and complete” (James 1:4). Peter prays for his readers, asking that Christ might “perfect, establish, strengthen and settle them” in the midst of their suffering.
Both passages convey the clear message that trials strengthen and build our faith, allowing us to endure. Peter’s phrasing further develops this idea by his inclusion of the word “establish,” from the Greek “stērixei,” meaning “support or prop.” In my mind, I envision an object securely anchored on a firm foundation and recall Paul’s exhortation to his readers in 1 Corinthians 15:58 to be “be steadfast, immovable,” strong enough to withstand the harshest of storms.
While I’m proud enough of the fact that I managed to caulk a bathtub today, the lesson it taught me has even more value. Though admittedly none of us long for trials to come, we can take heart in knowing that when they do, they can be the means through which our faith— which is “much more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7)—grows. Because of this, we can look to the future with confidence, knowing that in Him, we have everything we need to withstand the trials to come.