A temptation is when we are being enticed to sin. God never tempts us (James 1:13).
A trial, however, is when we go through something difficult that God wants to use for our good and his glory. As James 1:2-4 explains, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I believe God often uses trials for our good and his glory even in the context of relationships as well. So here are 5 common trials that God often uses to bring two people together for his glory.
1. If a Trial Has Caused You or Someone to Receive the Gospel, This Is a Trial God Can Use to Unite You Two in Christ
At the heart of every relationship, God wants to be glorified. This is why God does not want Christians to be in unequally yoked relationships (2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 7:39) because these relationships are not focused on Jesus.
I also don’t believe God wants Christians to missionary date, which is the process of dating a non-Christian while trying to evangelize to them through dating. This is unwise because dating is a forming of yoking, thus you are unequally yoked when you date a non-believer. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 15:33 states, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” Paul warns us not to be deceived about this because Christians so often try to deceive themselves by coming up with reasons to be attached to non-Christians. You can’t get around it. This is not God’s will. Don’t be deceived.
God can save a person without you disobeying his word. In fact, God often uses trials to bring people to Christ. This is what happened to Onesimus. He was a slave who ran away from his master and in prison he met Paul. He then became a Christian. Paul knew his master, Philemon, and wrote him a letter. In Philemon 1:8-12, Paul states:
Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.”
Obviously this letter is wildly different than the context we are talking about. But through the circumstances that led Onesimus to become a Christian, who then became dear to Paul, we can see that God often uses trials in life to open our eyes to the gospel and to then unite us with other believers.
2. If This Trial Was Needed to Help You Two Overcome Past Issues, This Is a Good Sign God Is Using This Trial to Bring You Two Together
In Philemon 1:15-16 Paul went onto write, “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
That is a powerful phrase to me, “For perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever.” Again, while this situation Paul is writing about is very different than romantic relationships like we are talking about, the principles seen here certainly do relate.
Sometimes God needs to create distance between two people so he can prepare the right circumstances to bring them back together. If Onesimus never left Philemon, perhaps they would have always had a bad relationship. But now, because of this trial of imprisonment, God made them brothers in Christ.
Likewise, sometimes we need to go through trials individually so God can then bring us back together with someone we used to have issues with. But because of the transformation God caused through this trial, it’s possible to have a much better relationship with this person now.
3. Through Forgiveness and Reconciliation, God Often Unites Divided People with a Stronger Bond Than They Had Before the Rift Took Place
In Philemon 1:17-20, Paul wrote, “So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.”
Paul was essentially telling Philemon to forgive and reconcile with Onesimus. Paul said, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” In other words, Paul was motiving Philemon to forgive Onesimus not only for him but also for Paul’s sake. This is what Christ does for us. No one deserves forgiveness. But Christ deserves for us to forgive others.
This is what Jesus taught us through the parable of the unmerciful servant who would not forgive his fellow servant even though their master had just forgiven him much more. The master said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33).
Not only does forgiveness glorify God, but sometimes it leads to a reconciliation that actually strengthens the bond that was formally broken. All Christians must always forgive. But we should only reconcile when the person has truly repented.
This certainly doesn’t always happen, but like Paul hoped would happen between Philemon and Onesimus, a trial can be used by God to actually create a deeper bond than the one that was broken when those involved offer forgiveness and reconciliation.
4. If God Is Teaching You Both How to Pray and Prepare for What You Hope for Even When You Are Unsure If It Will Happen, This Is a Good Sign God Could Be Preparing to Bring You Two Together
In Philemon 1:21-22, Paul wrote, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.”
This statement is very interesting to me, “. . . prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.” Paul didn’t know what was going to happen. But he told Philemon to still prepare for what he was hoping would happen.
This is what we should do as well. Perhaps you want to be united with someone, but you really don’t know if it will ever happen. Or perhaps you are even dating someone, but you both are being overall guarded because you are still unsure if this relationship will result in a breakup or marriage one day.
If you live in fear and you start planning for the worst, you will usually experience what you fear. But if you prepare for what you hope to happen, you have a much better chance of experiencing that hope because through the preparations you are making steps towards what you want.
So if you and this person are learning to prepare for what you hope for rather than preparing for what you fear, this is often a way in which God will unite you two together.
5. If Two People Are Learning to Depend on God’s Grace Through a Trial, This Is a Good Sign God Will Use This to Unite Them
Paul concludes his letter to Philemon with the words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,” (Philemon 1:25).
Everything good always comes by grace. Legalism divides. Religious rules smother love. No two people are perfect. No society is totally just. No relationship is without baggage. If you need perfection in order to love someone, the only person you can ever truly love is God. But God calls us not only to love him but to also love others (Mark 12:30-31). The only path forward, therefore, is grace.
Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. If God is teaching you and someone else to live by grace in your relationship together, this is a good sign he will use this grace to create a loving bond between you two.