The LORD allows travail - indeed, He not only allows it, but appoints it - in order to find out whether really there is a heart-relationship to His things.
A few months ago, I found a tree lying at the side of the road, not far from my house.
The day before, it had been upright and growing, and looking like all the other trees.
It had all the leaves of profession, all the proximity of association with other trees, and outwardly it could pass off as being the real thing.
But a storm came, and now it was lying there; and when I looked at it I found that it had no heart: it was a completely hollow thing - there was only a framework.
That is a parable. That is what is happening, and what is going to happen, and what GOD will cause to happen everywhere.
The travail will come...the suffering, persecution, trials, whatever it may be; and, whatever may be its form, whether it be within or without, it is going to come in order to discover whether there is a heart there for GOD...
Or whether, after all, it is hollow, it is profession, it is simply association on the outside, and not real on the inside.
GOD must expose what is not real, and GOD must test everything to prove it.
But what had happened to the other trees... those that stood near the fallen one?
Well, they survived the storm, and they are still standing.
But is that all? Not a bit of it! The next storm that comes will probably find that it has got a little harder work to do than last time to move these.
Those roots have felt the strain and they have reached down and taken a tighter hold.
They have got a grip on things; they have realized that storms are realities, and that it is a matter of life and death as to whether they stand.
It is so easy, is it not, when things get difficult, to walk out, give up?
How often we pray that the LORD will protect from difficulties and troubles! - but the LORD never answers prayers like that.
These things come to us personally, and they come to us in our little companies...storms, shaking storms, things calculated to devastate and scatter, destroy and finish what is there... and the LORD does not protect.
But what is He doing? On the one side He is finding out whether there is a heart for Him, and whether there is reality in every member, or whether it is only outward show and hollow inside.
On the other hand, He is seeking to bring out the expression of preciousness: that this thing is too precious to let go easily; it means far too much for us to abandon at the first onset of adversity and trial.
That is the meaning of it, and it explains very much, does it not?
~T. Austin Sparks~