Tumbling Trials


Returning from running errands one Saturday, I came home to a curious gathering in our driveway. Our two sons kneeled side by side on the concrete, safety goggles engulfing their faces and hammers in hand. Next to them were two piles of tile, one gray and one tan, and a couple of large white buckets. Trevor loomed over it all, watching hammers rise and fall, chipping, cracking, and breaking apart the square tile.

Trevor’s dad had recently given us some leftover tile from various remodeling jobs. We were so grateful for the beautiful tile, and soon the kitchen and most of the great room were finished. The last bare spot was a three-and-a-half by five rectangle of bare concrete just inside our entryway. Trevor had drawn some sketches and planned to fill the space with a unique mosaic of the colorful tile.

On the driveway that afternoon, Trevor had the boys break apart the tile he planned to use in the entryway space. I smiled at the giddy grins on their faces as they were given the green light to smash something, over and over and over. Then, while unpacking groceries a few minutes later, I noticed the new toy my hubby had just rented. In the backyard sat a dirty, ancient cement mixer that Trev and Chase dubbed, “the Cannon.” Trev was going to take the buckets-full of cracked up tile pieces, add water and small stones, and tumble the sharp edges smooth.

I was curious to see how the tile pieces turned out, or if my handy hubby just wanted to play around with a fun new tool for a few days. I trusted Trev’s judgement, but my inexperienced eyes and impatience kept me from visualizing the finished product – that the broken, jagged tile pieces could become smoothly shaped, useful pieces of the mosaic after a few hours of bumping and tumbling in the mixer.

Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. ~ James 1:2-4

Later that afternoon, Trev lugged four or five buckets of the thoroughly cracked tile into the backyard and set about preparing the first bucket for its tumbling trial. He sprayed water into the cement mixer then added a bunch of small, smooth stones we had in our fish tank a few years back. The multitude of tiny tan pebbles would aggravate the tile’s sharp edges with constant bombardment, helping shape and soften the jagged points.

With a click of the cement mixer’s switch, the tumbling began.

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:3

Trevor dumped and rinsed that first load of tile, and I watched in amazement as the triangle-shaped edges and cracked, angry veins of color changed completely. Sharp tile now had smooth, gently rounded edges and veins sanded down so that each individual piece would fit beautifully into the mosaic.

Bucket after bucket tipped and tumbled, turning, changing. The gentle, useful beauty of the pieces appeared. I even became fond of the crunching sound coming from our backyard every afternoon when I realized the necessity of the tumbling to create beautiful, purposed pieces of tile.

The next weekend my hubby started on the entryway, laying down a border, then carefully choosing the individual tumbled pieces for the mosaic. It was tedious work, and as I watched him my mind went over the steps of the process and how the finished product was well worth the jarring, smashing, tumbling trial each piece underwent.


Are we any different, Lord? I wondered. Our lives are guaranteed to bring tumbling, soul-cracking trials. Just coming out of one, I’m still sore from the jarring emotional experience and struggling to find new footing in my faith. Each trial shapes us, refines our heart, and changes us for the better – with a stronger faith and solid hope in the only Hope. Christ-followers have a faithful focal point during trials – Jesus – and we’re gifted with God’s grace for each turn and bump of the trial.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and your hands full of God’s grace as you thump along in life’s cement mixer. God is shaping you into a beautiful piece of His mosaic.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. ~ 1 Peter 4:12-13


2 thoughts on “Tumbling Trials

  1. Thank you, Amanda! I think about your and your books, and pray for you often. Miss emailing back and forth. 🙂 Thanks for your encouraging comment. So thankful God doesn’t leave us as we are, but instead loves us enough to shape us into His Son’s image.

    I recently got a copy of the devotional, Streams in the Desert, and the first few days are about trusting God in trials. It’s really good so far.


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