On a day by day basis, it is probably the most difficult issue that the Christian will face.
What is it?
The ever present Trials and Tribulations of the Christian’s life!
Even as we begin to find growth and maturity it will seem like they become harder, deeper, touching areas of our life that we thought were settled.
Still, nothing catches our God off His guard!
We might say to ourselves, “I can deal with this problem, just as long as nothing happens in this other part of my life, or to this particular person!” Or we may say, “Lord, do with me as you will, but don’t allow anything evil or negative to happen to my wife, or my children!” It is often more difficult to watch a loved one suffer, especially if we are helpless to do anything about it.
Have you ever really considered how Job suffered through the death of his children and his financial collapse, for which, humanly speaking, there was no rhyme or reason? And, let’s not lose sight of his wife, who suffered these losses as well.
And then there is the point where something goes askew in our life and we know we have allowed sin to enter – or we have been sinning. The most likely first reaction is to fall into a pit, wallowing in the fact that we did wrong, believing that God is punishing us, and feeling that we have no right to ask or to expect Him to deliver us. Even when we have recognized sin and confessed it and found victory, we fear that there will be consequences. And . . . of course, there may be.
Still, nothing catches our God off His guard!
And, our ‘Abba’, our Heavenly Daddy, still loves us. He will never forsake us, never turn His back on us!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33 NIV]
“I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” [2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV]
“Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.” [2Thessalonians 1:4 ESV]
“Sanctification is the Spirit of Christ in us – making us to be in reality what God sees us to be already through justification.” David Wilkerson
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1Thessalonians 5:23 ESV]
Sanctification is the moment by moment process through which we mature as believers, under the guiding Hand of God. Trials and Tribulations are part-and-parcel in that process
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” [James 1:2-4 NIV]
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” [1Peter 1:6-9 ESV]
In both of these passages, we see the instruction of what we should do. ‘Consider it pure joy…’ ‘In this you greatly rejoice…’ Why? Because trials make us stronger. The James passage clearly states that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. And the Peter passage states that our faith, which is priceless, will be proved genuine and result in praise to God.
But, our question is usually how? How can we find joy in the midst of all the junk, hardships, and painful circumstances?
Do we benefit from suffering?
The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!
But, how do we benefit from suffering?
A study of the life of Joseph provides an example of one who trusted God regardless of the external circumstances in his life. Consider how many years of extreme suffering Joseph endured– loss of family, deprivation, slavery, imprisonment – before God lifted him up to be the second most powerful man in Egypt. By this the family of Jacob, the Children of Israel, were cocooned inside one of the most powerful civilizations, even though in cruel slavery, for nearly 400 years while God prepared for their deliverance, as well as His plan for the salvation of the entire world.
But also, consider David. In Psalm 22 David cries out to God for relief from the pain, the struggles, etc. God’s answer, as we now know, came through God’s Messiah, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God – and that happened about 1000 years later.
David could only trust in the word God gave him. We have the favored position of living on this side of the Cross.
Individually, my wife and I could spend days recounting the things God has taught us
I learned to trust Him, regardless the circumstances.
through our trials and tribulations – just in the past 20 years. Loss of job, business failure, finances, health, loss of loved ones, and on and on. I dare say every one reading this could do the same. In retrospect we see what He has taught us by taking us through deep valleys, the pathways we so feared before. I personally suffered through embarrassment, shame, fear, anguish, and discouragement, just to name a few. My sweet wife carried her own burdens and struggles. We found solace in each other, but more importantly, we discovered the deep abiding truth of God’s Word, and the joy of being slaves of our Master. We traveled rocky, narrow paths and fertile green pastures. But this we know of a certainty. Our Sovereign God had our days laid out before time began. We learned the blessed truth of “this is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Every day.
I learned to trust Him, regardless the circumstances. I developed a little saying, which is axiomatic in understanding our position with an Omnipotent, Omniscient God – “God does nothing for no reason.” Our Master loves us with an eternal love and desires for us to grow, while we glorify the Father.
The Apostle Paul suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, as recounted in his various letters. But his faith rested in his implacable trust of his Master.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” [Romans 8:18 ESV]
Probably the most asked question of the Christian faith in our modern times is this.
Satan exists and He is fully aware that God is the Eternal, Almighty, Merciful, Righteous, and SOVEREIGN Creator.
How can a loving, all powerful God allow the level of suffering that we see across the world?
Our perfect God has a perfect plan for each one of us, and it will be fulfilled in the joys as well as the trials and tribulations we suffer in a FALLEN WORLD.
Sin is real. Satan exists and He is fully aware that God is the Eternal, Almighty, Merciful, Righteous, and SOVEREIGN Creator. Therefore, Satan has but one goal for every human that has ever lived. That goal is to get us to a point where we deny that God is who He is and deny that Jesus ransomed us with His shed blood, so that we will try to live a wholly self-directed life and spend an eternity in hell separated from God.
28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. …” 32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” [Romans 8:28, 32 ESV]
If God did not spare even His own Son, why should we expect delicate, special treatment? And if we know God to be perfect, and His love for us complete and everlasting, should we not rejoice in our suffering, knowing it will lead us to a greater realization of Him and a closer relationship with our Master, Jesus?
At the end of his story, after all the suffering and the questioning of God, Job had this to say:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” [Job 42:2 ESV]
Christianity has the only answer – the ONLY answer! Because the God we serve lived, suffered and died a cruel substitutionary death out of pure, undefiled love; and then, He Arose and He Lives, ever interceding for His beloved Bride, the Church.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” [Romans 12:12 ESV]
In his Bible Study ‘Detours, The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny’ Dr. Tony Evans offers the following prayers:
“Dear Lord, I choose to believe Your Word. I choose to believe You are working all things out behind the scenes for my good and Your glory. Help me to wait in such a way that honors You and give me signs of Your goodness along the way.
“God, I choose to surrender my situation to You. Help me to guard my mouth and keep it free from complaining. Let the meditation of my heart and the words from my lips please You, benefit others, and speak life into my everyday scenarios. Forgive me for when I have been impatient, for when I have complained, and for when I have lacked faith.”
In the Name above all names, our Eternal God and Savior, Jesus!