Before he died, Larry Barkdull had written a substantial part of an unfinished manuscript  about the extraordinary power of faith,  particularly as a power that causes things to happen. This is faith on a higher level than we usually practice and understand it. With the permission of his wife, Buffie, Meridian will be running an excerpt from this new book every week. See earlier articles in this series HERE and HERE and HERE

Understanding the purpose of trials of faith helps us to endure them well, meaning to endure them faithfully and obediently without complaining against God—murmuring. Appreciating the purpose of trials of faith also helps us to endure to the end, that is, to endure well in the covenant to the end of our life and to endure well in the covenant to the end of the trial.

Job’s life is a powerful example of enduring well to the end of a trial of faith. Job was an priest and judge, who was highly respected and very wealthy. He was doing everything right when suddenly everything went wrong. In an instant, he lost his seven sons and three daughters. Then he lost his wealth and his health. When he was cast from his home to take up residence near the city refuse heap, he was separated from his wife—possibly one of his hardest trials. His reaction was not murmuring, it was a declaration of loyalty: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”[1]

Three of his friends, and later a fourth, came to comfort him. They were so astonished at his condition and appearance that they could not utter a word, but rather sat with him in silence for seven days, “for they saw that his grief was very great.”[2] Then the unimaginable happened: Job’s friends turned against him and accused him of sin. They imagined that nothing short of misdeeds and flaws in his character could produce such misery. Surely, they said, Job was now reaping the reward for his poor choices and bad conduct. Persecution is one of the more extreme trials of faith.

Job did what he was supposed to do: he endured in faith. Despite the false accusations and abuse, Job maintained his integrity. He knew that sin was not the cause of his trial. Attempting to repent for something that the Lord has not revealed is wasted energy. There is no reason to guess about such things. Job was acquainted with the Lord well enough to know that if he had sinned, the Lord would point it out to him and provide a plan of salvation. If escaping his circumstance were as easy as admitting to a mistake, Job would have gladly done so. But he had received no such divine communication, therefore he was duty-bound to maintain his integrity and wait for the Lord to deliver him and give him further instructions. Although Job did not fully comprehend the reason for his afflictions, he did understand that he was experiencing a trial of faith and that his responsibility was to see it through. Rather than invent a reason for his suffering and to counter his friends’ persecution, Job bore a strong testimony about what he did know: “I know that my redeemer liveth.”[3] He also knew that trials of faith are temporary, and he declared as much: “When [the Lord] hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”[4]

In the end, when the trial of faith had done its work and the law of restoration was about to take effect, the Lord vindicated Job by chastising his friends. Speaking Eliphaz, the Lord said,  “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” Then, in an extraordinary gesture to invite Eliphaz and the friends to repent (this would also become Job’s ultimate test), the Lord commanded Eliphaz, “Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly. [5]

Job’s final trial of faith was forgiveness!

After all that had happened to him, after all the abuse, could Job now forgive and pray for his friends? Yes! And the result was astounding: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”[6] The trial of faith gave way to restoration, and Job’s “captivity” was turned by a simple act of charity. By gathering faith to endure his final trial, forgiveness, Job was able to rescue and reclaim his friends, and by doing so, Job cleared the way for the Lord to restore to Job twice as much as he had before.

The Scales Will More Than Balance

The Lord instructed Joseph Smith on the doctrine of enduring trials well in connection with the law of opposites. By nature, the Lord said, trials are temporary, and most certainly, the pendulum will swing the other way. When it does, the Lord will effectively throw a switch to supercharge the swing so that it rebounds many times beyond its opposite—even “an hundredfold.” To the Prophet, the Lord promised, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”[7] Indeed, Joseph did endure the trial well, it did come to an end, he was exalted on high and triumphed over his enemies, and because of the trial, he did develop greater faith which he needed to accomplish some of the most glorious parts of his mission.

Isaiah suffered a trial of faith when his work went widely unheeded among wicked, unrepentant people. We could personalize his words and gain perspective on our relationship with God and our destiny.

The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;

And said unto me: Thou art my servant…in whom I will be glorified.

Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught and in vain; surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.

And now, saith the Lord–that formed me from the womb that I should be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him–though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.[8]

We could rephrase the scripture to read: “The Lord has known and prepared me from before I was born. Although I have suffered much and felt that my life is worthless, God has been hiding and polishing me in his quiver. The day will come when he will draw me out of obscurity as his secret weapon, and he will launch me at the heart of his enemies to do a mighty work. Whereas I have felt that my purpose is vain, I shall yet be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, who is my strength.”

The scales must balance; trials of faith must yield to restoration; losses must be repaid “an hundredfold.” In the scriptures, we see trials of faith end with astounding restoration. Adam lost Abel to the priestcraft of Cain, but he was restored with Seth, who was in Adam’s exact likeness[9] and who became the first of a patriarchal line of righteous fathers. Enoch shrank from his prophetic calling because he was hated for his slowness of speech, but by faith he was restored to the extent that “he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled and the mountains fled…and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch.”[10] And then there are the prisoner stories. Joseph languished in Egypt as a slave and prisoner for fourteen years before the Lord instantaneously elevated him to prince, second in authority only to Pharaoh.[11] Aaron wasted away in a Lamanite prison unable to fulfill his mission before the Lord set him free to teach the father of Lamoni and convert many thousands to the gospel.[12] Similarly, Alma and Amulek were cast into prison, and when the Lord released them, they converted many people.[13] Helaman’s sons, Nephi and Lehi, were also thrown into prison, and when the Lord caused a miracle to free them, they converted three hundred would-be Lamanite murderers, who in turn converted many in their nation.[14]

Parley P. Pratt described lyrically the trial of faith that must give way to balance.

Jesus, once of humble birth,
Now in glory comes to earth.
Once he suffered grief and pain;
Now he comes on earth to reign.

Once a meek and lowly Lamb,
Now the Lord, the great I Am.
Once upon the cross he bowed;
Now his chariot is the cloud.
Now his chariot is the cloud.

Once he groaned in blood and tears;
Now in glory he appears.
Once rejected by his own,
Now their King he shall be known.

Once forsaken, left alone,
Now exalted to a throne.
Once all things he meekly bore,
But he now will bear no more.[15]

For the Glory of God

Some trials of faith are by divine assignment and meant to produce a miracle to demonstrate the power of God. There are several examples in Jesus’ ministry.

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.[16]

Jesus healed the man, and the healing brought people to the point of decision: either Jesus was the Son of God or he was of the devil. Some people accepted Jesus to their salvation while others rejected him to their condemnation. The Pharisees said, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.”[17] The miracle served its purpose by revealing Jesus’ glory and forcing a crisis of decision.

Another account of disciples who cried their allegiance as they endured the trial of faith for the glory of Christ is that of Mary, Martha and Lazerus.[18] Once again, we are shown that this type of trial calls for a beloved and trusted believer to be used by the Lord so that he might work a miracle in their life.

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha….Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

The next verse is perhaps one of the most important in the story. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” It seems that John wanted to make it perfectly clear that the trial of faith had nothing to do with Lazarus, Mary, or Martha’s unworthiness or Jesus’ being unfeeling toward them. The trial of faith had everything to do with trust and love. Imagine! The Lord had trusted His beloved friends to endure a terrible trial, which they did not understand at the time, for the purpose of glorifying Him—to demonstrate who He was and His power of redemption. Therefore, to that end, Jesus delayed His coming. During that time Lazarus died and was buried.

When the Lord finally arrived, Lazarus had lain in the grave four days. Mary and Martha were grief-stricken but not disheartened. With unwavering faith, they individually bore their testimonies of the Master. Evidently this scene of fierce discipleship (not the scene of Lazarus’s death, for within minutes Lazarus would come forth) overwhelmed Jesus and He wept. The Savior became very emotional when he observed how his trusted friends, Mary and Martha, had remained firm to become the instruments through which He could be glorified. Their demonstration of loyalty in the midst of apparent tragedy proved them worthy, and now they would be rewarded.

He asked, “Where have ye laid him?” They took him to the tomb and rolled away the stone. Jesus reminded Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” The reference indicates the power of God to heal or reverse the impossible. Imagine how that tiny seed of hope must have taken root and swelled within Martha and Mary. Then Jesus offered a prayer of gratitude to His Father, and He “cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.”

The trial of faith was over and the Son of God was glorified. Here is an essential point of the story that all of us should understand: Many unbelievers who witnessed the miracle became believers, and the believers were strengthened in their faith. How? By the Lord’s showing forth His power to reverse a devastating affliction that was apparently beyond hope. To do so, the Savior relied on His beloved friends to suffer an excruciating trial of faith without immediate perspective so that He could affect a miracle to demonstrate the glorifying power of God and draw souls unto Him.

Do we have enough faith to allow the Savior to use us in a like manner? When we are suffering, we might not know who is praying for us who otherwise would not pray. We might not know who is watching us or who will benefit. During the trial of faith, we seldom know that the purpose is to bless as many people as possible and to ultimately glorify God.

Such are trials of faith. Of necessity, they stand opposite or in opposition to faith, but they are never meant to destroy faith; rather, they awaken and empower faith. Endured well, trials of faith always give way to restoration that is delivered to us in multiples, many times the cumulative sum of the suffering. Trials of faith are the engine of faith that produces power, confidence and loyalty, and which solidifies the essential divine relationship between God and us. When trials of faith yield miracles of deliverance, they glorify God and bless the lives of many.  Elder Gene R. Cook wrote: “If you desire great faith, be prepared for great trials. They will come—I promise you they will. But we can use them to strengthen our faith in the Lord.”[19]

[1] Job 1:21.

[2] Job 2:13.

[3] Job 19:25.

[4] Job 23:10.

[5] Job 42:7–8, emphasis added.

[6] Job 42:10.

[7] D&C 121:7-8.

[8] Isaiah 21:1-5.

[9] D&C 107:43.

[10] Moses 6:31; 7:13.

[11] Genesis 41:37-46.

[12] Alma 21-23.

[13] Alma 14-15.

[14] Helaman 5.

[15] Hymns 196.

[16] John 9:1-3, emphasis added.

[17] John 9:16, emphasis added.

[18] John 11:1-45.

[19] Cook, Living by the Power of Faith, 100.