Trial, tribulation, affliction, visitation, cross are comparable when they denote suffering, misery, or unhappiness regarded as an infliction which cannot be escaped or avoided.
Trial implies a trying (as of one’s endurance, patience, self-control, courage, or power to resist temptation). The word is applicable not only to distressing situations or conditions but to persons or things that cause distress or annoyance.
Tribulation , when not completely interchangeable with trial , heightens the emphasis on the suffering or anguish involved in trial and often connotes divinely permitted suffering as a test of virtue.
Affliction stresses the implication of imposed suffering that challenges one’s powers of endurance; the term need not suggest a relation between suffering and deserts.
Visitation heightens the implications of affliction by stressing the severity of suffering and by suggesting an ordeal; distinctively it often connotes retribution or retributive justice.
Cross in its applications closely parallels trial and tribulation but it may differ from them in its implications of suffering accepted and borne for the sake of a larger, unselfish good rather than as a test of character.
The word often directly alludes to the words of Jesus to the rich young man: “Come, take up the cross , and follow me” as recorded in the Gospel according to Mark, or to his own carrying of the cross to the place of his crucifixion.