The purpose of trials

This is a translation of a scriptural meditation from the Russian book, “Day by Day”:

Scripture: “They will raise their wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40, 31)

There is a poetic legend about how birds were initially created. The lovely creatures were adorned with beautiful feathers, they had wonderful voices which produced melodious songs, but, unfortunately, they were not able to glide in the far reaches of the sky, since they did not have wings. Then God created wings, showed them to the birds and said: “I am giving you this to put on and wear”.

The birds looked at this unfamiliar load with bewilderment and fear; then they obediently took it with their beaks, put it on themselves, and it seemed very heavy to carry. But soon, as they pressed them to themselves, the wings attached themselves to the little creatures and the birds learned how to use them. Extending them, they rose high above the earth, and the burden became wings. Instead of just carrying a heavy load, they acquired a hitherto unknown ability to fly.

This legend has a spiritual meaning. We are all birds without wings, and those trials and duties which God sends us are intended to teach us to rise above everything earthly. We look at our troubles as a heavy burden, but when we understand that God sends them to us in order to teach us to fly higher, we accept them from Him. And what happens? They turn into wings and carry us toward the sky, and maybe without them we would become permanently attached to this sorry earth. But they elevate our souls and turn into a blessing. By refusing to do our duty, by shirking the burden given us, we lose the chance to develop spiritually. Let us resolve to carry our burdens, hoping in the Lord, and let us remember that He wants to turn them into wings. These wings will carry us higher and higher until we reach “where the sparrow has found a home near Your altars, o Lord of hosts, my King and my God” (Psalms: 84, 3).

Let us not forget that during our flight through this earthly life, these wings given us by God, which are often still weak, need cover and strengthening and, most importantly, cleansing from the dust of the earth which weighs them down. And this is where God’s love appears in the form of broad wings, spread over earthly pilgrims. We must again and again seek shelter under the wings of the Almighty in order to equip ourselves for new flight and, spreading our wings, always remember that they can remain raised only through the power of God.

In Goffar’s “C.S. Lewis Index” there is only one reference to “trials”. It is from “A Grief Observed”, part III, par 36:

“How far have I got? Just as far, I think, as a widower of another sort who would stop, leaning on his spade, and say in answer to our inquiry, 'Thank ‘ee. Musn’t grumble. I do miss her something dreadful. But they say these things are sent to try us.’ We have come to the same point; he with his spade, and I, who am not much good at digging, with my own instrument. But one must take ‘sent to try us’ the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial he makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”

Lewis is speaking, of course, not of the temple of his belief in God, but of the temple of his belief in God’s goodness and love, which he was questioning as he “was drowning” (Lois’s phrase) after Joy’s death.


“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)