First, and probably most common, are trials of place and race. Scripture affirms that we live in a fallen place. This planet is under the rule of our adversary, Satan. Earth is his domain. We are also part of a fallen race. Apart from the help of God, all of us are prone to express our fallenness in many kinds of damaging ways.
We can count on it— living in a fallen place and being a part of a fallen race is going to produce difficult times. Originally, this place was a perfect environment where productive work, fellowship with God, and morally responsible actions provided fulfillment and unhindered joy. But in Genesis 3, sin entered the picture and raped the scene. The rest of Scripture speaks to the struggle of real people trying to live in a fallen place as part of a fallen race.
The wonderful thing about the scope of biblical history is that whereas it starts with a perfect creation and then records the Fall, it ends with the glorious consummation of all things. One of my all-time favorite passages in Scripture is in Revelation: “The former things are passed away. . . . Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:4-5 KJV). What a great hope for us. In that new environment there will be no more death, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more crying. But until then, we are a fallen race planted in a fallen place.
When we were children we played the game “So Big.” We couldn’t wait to grow up. Then we became teenagers. We looked in the mirror and said, “No way! That can’t be my body!” Our faces erupted like volcanoes, we started to become men and women, and we didn’t like what was happening to us. Then we reached our thirties, and our bodies began to slow down. We spent vast sums of money at health spas. Our bodies sagged and wrinkled, and we started looking for the plastic surgeon.
We look forward to retirement, but our bodies will retire before we do. Our back goes out more often than we do. When we lean down to pick something up, we want to stay down to see how many other things we can get while we’re there.
Our bodies get sick—and rarely on schedule. Some of us live in bodies that are diseased. Arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease plague many. Death stands ready to rob us of those we love in untimely and unsettling ways. It’s a fallen place, and we’re a fallen race. Trouble comes with the territory.
Fallen people use, manipulate, and abuse us. Horrific accidents, killer tornadoes, and devastating earthquakes disrupt our lives. It’s all part of being planted on a planet damaged by the rule of Satan and sin.
When a trial of place and race impacts our lives, what ought to be revealed? In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul valiantly struggles with his thorn in the flesh. He prays three times that God will remove it from him. But it’s clear that it’s not God’s will that the thorn should be removed. It has purpose. So Paul acknowledges the thorn’s presence and recognizes that it has purpose. He submits to the trial without bitterness or blaming God, and claims that through his weakness God will make him strong.