This past Easter made me think about all Christ went through in his short ministry time, up to and including His crucifixion. He suffered so much at the hands of mockers, scoffers, and haters as the perfect sacrifice so we could be in a saving relationship with a holy God, yet he never complained or retaliated. Even in his last moments here on earth, the guards bullied and beat him, mocked him, and put a crown of thorns on His head, and the criminal on one of the crosses beside Jesus ridiculed Him saying he should prove He was the Messiah by saving Himself and them.
Why would we think we’d be immune to suffering if God’s own Son had to suffer?
1 Peter 4:12&13 says, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad — for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”
I’ve found that people believe bad things happen, even to “good” people, for one of four reasons:
- They think God is not all-powerful.
- They think God’s not loving like the Bible says he is.
- They think God just set the world in motion and now we’re just left to our own devices and He’s no longer involved in our lives.
- They see God as angry and demanding and think it’s impossible to please Him or escape His punishment.
None of those is true!
We live in a fallen world. People are going to do horrible things and other people will suffer because of it. That doesn’t mean God is not all-powerful or is unable to stop people from doing these bad things. Paul says in Ephesians 1:19-20: “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” God has the power to raise the dead to life again, to heal the sick, to make the shadow on a sundial move backwards¹, to move mountains², and to change hearts. Lack of power is not a problem.
The problem is that God gave us free will and a lot of times, due to our own foolishness and fallenness, that’s to our detriment. We fight against God’s will for us and although it’s usually done out of ignorance, stubbornness, greed, or a need for control, we cause way more problems for ourselves (and others) than if we went with the flow of God’s plan for our lives. I know this from my own experience of fighting the pull of God for so many years. Wow, so many heartaches could’ve been avoided if I had only known then what I know now! It’s a heart issue, though, too. Each person has to come to the point of being ready to invite God to work in their life. For some of us, that means reaching rock bottom first. 😒
Unfortunately, when we’re in the pit or are suffering hardship, we often get angry and blame others, including God, for our predicament. As a result, God can feel distant but if He had just set the world in motion and then left us to our own devices, not caring what happened to us, why would He say: “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows,” in Luke 12:7?
Instead, we can be assured of God’s love by what it says in Romans 8:35: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” The answer is no, and it’s reiterated in verse 39: “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s not that He doesn’t care or that He’s distanced himself, but that we’ve pushed Him away.
It’s not all about us.
Rather than shutting Him out with our poor attitude, we should reach out to Him for comfort and strength and He will equip us to help others in the future. Since we’ve been through tough times, we’ll be more able to empathize with and comfort others who are going through something similar, as it says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (This is my hope with this blog.)
What if the cancer or miscarriage you endured could give someone else going through the same thing some strength and hope they may not have had if they hadn’t witnessed your ordeal? What if your battle with addiction or depression was so you could come alongside someone else with a similar problem and help coach them through and out of their situation?
Some things we’ll never know until we get to heaven, but we can be assured that God can cause good to come from not only our foolish decisions but also from the bad things that other people have done to us. We just have to let Him work in us and through us, as it says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Sometimes the good comes after we’ve grown from persevering through our own trials. Then we can use our experiences to help someone else, kind of a way of paying it forward.
What people don’t realize is, it’s not God’s goal to keep our lives comfortable and trouble free. He’s more interested in growing our character to be more like Jesus.
God allows things to happen to teach us, to help us mature in our relationship with him, and to develop our character. A loving parent allows a child to climb a tree or learn to ride a bike even though there’s risk involved because they know the experience outweighs a possible bruised ego, scraped knee, or broken arm. Similarly, we grow stronger from going through the storms of life. If we only ever had smooth sailing, our faith and character would be weak and wishy-washy, like how a muscle gets flabby when it’s unused.
God loves us like His own children and because of that, He disciplines us to help us be all that we can be, as it says in Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT): “My child, don’t reject the LORD’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” Most of us aren’t very happy with being disciplined — we usually associate it with doing something wrong — but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s for our own good, just as it is for our own children. We’ve got to change the way we look at it and think of God’s discipline as guidance rather than punishment.
If you’re going through a tough time and wonder if it might be discipline from the Lord for something you’ve done, remember He’s doing it because He cares enough to help you learn and grow. As Hebrews 12:7 says: “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?”
Just because we’re being disciplined doesn’t mean God’s angry either. People are often mad at God because He hasn’t kept them safe from the storm, but God does care and despite what we’re tempted to think, He is slow to anger. Look at Psalms 103:8-13 where it says: “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens from the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”
We’re not experiencing difficulties just because He’s angry at us. Sure, there are consequences to all our actions, and God allows us to suffer the consequences so we can learn from them, but He’s not raining down hard times on us as punishment for our sins.
Jesus paid the price for our sins — past, present, and future — so why would God continue to punish us for them?
For those who think it’s impossible to please God, it should be comforting to know that all we need is faith. As Hebrews 11:6 says: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” God doesn’t give us a cushy life, but instead he uses trials and suffering not only to help us grow but also to test and strengthen our faith.
He allows us to go through the fire to get rid of the impurities so we’ll be more able to determine what’s really important in life, just like gold goes through a refining process to become more pure. As Christians, this is how we are made more like Christ.
1 Peter 1:7 says: “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
The refining process separates the chaff from the wheat, the goats from the sheep. Those with genuine faith will pass the test and their faith will be strengthened.
Remember I mentioned in previous posts that I was chided for my “religious talk” around my family and how it hurt? That was an example of a test. If I had given in to my family’s pressure to stop, I wouldn’t have brought up my beliefs again in more than twenty years. Or I might have even given up on being a Christian, just to avoid any confrontation with my family.
I am a people pleaser by nature, but my beliefs are more important to me than that. I don’t go around starting arguments and I try to patch relationships if a rift appears because the love of God is in me, but I won’t give up my faith just to please other people. This shows my faith is genuine. Besides, I’m assured it’ll be well worth it because Matthew 19:29 says: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.”
A little suffering and a few trials is the least I could endure to show my appreciation and love for God, yet it is nothing compared to what some people throughout the world have to endure because of their faith, or what Jesus had to endure to pay for my salvation. When I look at those two things and compare them to my life, I am eternally grateful.
What about you? Does this shed a new light of some of the trials you’re going through? How can you use what you’ve experienced to help someone else?
- see 2 Kings 20:11 and Isaiah 38:8
- see Matthew 17:20 and 21:21