Trials, Tribulations and Tsuris: How We Benefit

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Just when I thought my life was finally all tidied up, nice and ready for presentation, like a trophy fish to put up on the wall, something happened to mess it up. Again. Ever get the feeling that our quest to take care of our ‘to do’ list is just a human version of the hamster wheel. We think there’s an end in sight, but in reality the last item on the list is only an illusion–there is no end to the wheel. Our life in the world is never all put together. How much more special than a false promise of relief from all suffering to be able to proclaim that God has called us to be  His children, with a promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him. The ol’ hamster wheel doesn’t feel so bad when we can take a long, as in eternal, view of things.

But while we’re still here, trying to make the best of a fallen world despotically ruled by fallen, depraved, wretched man, what do we get? Trials, tribulations and tsuris. Tsuris is a rich, perfect expression, a Yiddish word I learned at an early age growing up in Brooklyn. Tsuris means “trouble” and is always exclaimed with somber demeanor, accompanied by much nodding of the head, and with an exchange of deep full eye contact  attesting to the revelation  in a glance that the sufferings of this world are universal, though not uniformly distributed across space and time.

We all go through valleys in life. It’s the cavalcade of valleys that makes the false gospel prosperity preachers so attractive: they seem to have the answer to avoiding those valleys. They promise only the peaks of life: success, health, wealth, peace and happiness. I can’t imagine these guys ever having a successful ministry in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Everybody there knew the truth about tsuris and its established role in life. And there was enough tsuris to go around for everybody.  There was a whole generation of people who had fought in the Second World War; two generations that had lived through the Depression; lots of people who came to New York in the lower decks of steam ships from less than wonderful lands; and I had neighbors who had serial numbers tattooed on their wrists. What could Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn possibly offer them? 

So, what’s my point? It’s this. We all (save the Joel Osteen ‘life is yours  for the asking/taking’ group) acknowledge that tsuris is our human condition, so how can we best understand it?

Let me list a few benefits we get from the trials of life. We can thank God for the benefits, because after all, He has a plan, and all things work for the greater good, right? If we approach and understand that our trials are part of God’s plan, we can give glory to God in them and in what we become through them.


Benefit 1. Our trials are tests of our faith. Job comes immediatley to  mind. I think especially of Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Human sacrifice? Kill the seed that was to fulfill God’s promise to make Abraham’s offspring as many as the stars in the sky?  Did that make any sense to Abraham? Did he question God at all? No. Now that was a test. Compared to that, how bad can my tests really be ?

For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:3)

Benefit 2. We are humbled through tsuris.  The sin of pride is a strong one (I can personally speak to this one), so trials and tests come along to humble us. We are not as strong, as pure, as self-reliant as we’d like to think. Even Paul had  a thorn in his side to keep him humble. When he asked God to remove it, God politely declined. Three times.

“a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. ”     (2 Corinthians 12:7)

Benefit 3. Tsuris devalues our attachments to the things of the world. When you’re lying in a hospital bed, or visiting a dying relative, how important is that car, or house, or job, or whatever? If we are attached to something in the world, and it distracts us form knowing that our real treaure is in heaven, God must show us that the real value of the things of this world is zero compared to what He offers.

“it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

Benefit 4. Through trials we learn to seek first the Kingdom of God.  Despite the good sense that we shouldn’t wait for trouble to turn to God, we still do. As God is merciful,  He  hears us in our time of need. What we hope is that the ear that so eagerly inclines to the Lord during a trial will permanently stay attuned to Him and follow His will. Out of trouble comes stronger communciation with God, and with that, faith. Our struggle with trials has a glorious end.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Benefit 5. Arising out of troubles, we are enabled and moved  to help others. How many great charities and causes have been started out of one person’s or one family’s specific trouble? We can take our pain and experience  of a trial and strive to help others avoid the same condition or better cope with it when it does strike them, whether that be disease, addictions or social ills. As Jesus said to Simon Peter:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-31)

Benefit 6.  Through trials, we become stronger spiritual warriors.  Every trial we endure, we emerge stronger. Stronger because we are more attuned to the human conditon, more sympathetic to our fellow man, and more reliant on God and more obedient to His will. It’s the only logical result. It is simply not in our power to avoid or successfully manage the trials and tribulations of life on our own . We need God to be our guide, our comfort, and our hope for the future.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:11-12)


Benefit 7. We come to appreciate the blessings the Lord bestows on us. When we see tsuris descend on those around us, or even on ourselves, we can stop and offer thanks for the good things God bestows to His children: life, hope, and then promise of eternal life, plus all the worldly blessings we take for granted: our homes, our food, our livelihood, our church, our freedom from persecution, from war and terror, and more.

“A faithful man will abound with blessings.” (Proverbs 28:20)

Benefit 8. Through tsuris we become more obedient. As we reflect on life’s valleys, we come to realize that many of them are brought about by our disobedience, by our choosing to not follow God’s laws. Chastening may lead us to the realization that God’s law is for our own well-being. In obedience we will be more secure, keep many of the dangers of the world at arm’s length, and grow in God’ s love.

“Although a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”  (Romans 5:8)


Benefit 9. Through trials we learn patience. God works out our life plan according to His schedule, not ours. And His schedule includes the microscopic items in our lives, and the eschatological unfolding of the universe.  We may wait impatiently for resolutions we can only guess at, but the Lord already knows, so what’s the worry or the hurry?

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:25)

As the trials of this life rage against us, we must be strong, not in our own abilities to endure, or to overcome, but in our faith in our Lord, and our hope in His promises. Our trials can serve to refine us and make us stronger in Christ.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;    your rod and your staff,   they comfort me.
(Psalms 23:4)

Next time you find yourself in a valley, be at peace. You are not alone and not without hope.

Published in: on September 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm  Comments (3)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I so needed to read this today. How very encouraging your words are, Will~ thank you.

    ‘Tsuris’ is a new word for me (probably because I don’t speak Yiddish). Leave it to the Jews to come up with a word that so perfectly describes suffering. I’ve been struggling this past week, with so many questions to God and so many things that I’m suddenly confused about. You’ve helped me to put it all back into its proper perspective and to remember that God is in every tiny detail and these things are for His glory and my benefit. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Ps. 34:19

    Your words sum up so many loose ends that seem to have come unraveled lately. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom ~ it’s come as a light in a dark place.

  2. We are part of one chain, a chain of believers, exhorting one another and calling out to all–all who need Christ. We cry out every way we know–words, blogs, prayer, song– and the message resounds, not because of our voices, but because God uses us as His agents to deliver His message to those who
    need to hear that very message at that moment in time:

    John 10:27 reads:

    My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me

    My chain runs though you, Liz, through Heather, to me. Let us ask God to keep our chain of faith ever living and growing.

    • Amen, brother!

      And may that chain, by the grace of God, extend to all the beloved members of our extended family…to our sons, parents, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Oh that God will bring salvation to each one and that we will reflect, as a whole, the truth of Jeremiah 24:15 ~ ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: