Ingrained in the heart of every human being is a longing to be happy and safe. We yearn for comfort, for security, for happiness. And when we find those things in life, we tend to cling to them because we’re afraid to face pain, loneliness and fear.
This is true of Christians as well. We want perpetual blessings from our heavenly Father. After all, He is Almighty, right? It’s no cost to Him to outfit us will the money we need, with good health, with friends and family who bring us joy and companionship. We feel, perhaps, that since we were good enough to choose to follow such a powerful and loving God that surely He will flood our lives with comfort and ease. We hold on to the promises of “peace that passeth understanding” (Philippians 4:7), and “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5) and “I have plans to prosper you and not to hurt you” (Jeremiah 29:11).
And all of those promises are good, solid promises on which we can rely. But we have to remember that there are other promises we have to consider as well:
Notice there are no caveats to these promises. Nowhere does our loving heavenly Father say “If you are good, you will have no difficulties; but if you misbehave, then watch out!” The trials and difficulties that come in to every Believer’s life are a guarantee. They are not dependent on our behavior, either good or bad. If you are walking with God, then difficult and painful times will come your way. This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible.
Many good and godly men and women depicted in the Bible had to face difficulties, sometimes severe ones. Joseph was sold as a slave by his own brothers. King David was exiled during his God-appointed rule in Israel, running for his life from his own dearly beloved son. Job faced the loss of great wealth and comfort, without even the support of his own wife or close friends. The prophets were consistently mocked and ignored. Even Jesus Himself faced censure from his family and the most humiliating and ignominious death possible. This is an inescapable reality of the world we live in: In this world we will face pain, loss, confusion and struggle, sometimes very extreme and very prolonged.
This is a point of testing that we often fail.
We believe God is loving and good when things are easy and we can see a smooth, comfortable course ahead of us. It’s so easy to feel love and praise for God when we get the promotion at work, when a dear saint in the church is healed, when our children delight us and our friends admire us. But when sickness strikes and sees no relief; when a colleague maligns us and we find ourselves out of work, when children rebel and we feel alone and rejected – where is our faith then?
That’s the question the world is asking. We are under constant scrutiny from non-believers. And while they are not ultimately the judges of our souls, they do have a valid challenge. Non-believers face the same triumphs and tragedies that we do in life (Ecclesiastes 9:2). They see intense hardships, as well as dizzying successes. They already know that walking with God does not prevent us from facing pain, and they demand to know: Where is your God when things are hard? Where is your faith? Where is your peace?
Let’s get beyond a superficial “God is good all the time” and be brutally honest with ourselves: we don’t doubt God when we are happy. We don’t question our faith when we have money in the bank. Our praise is usually the overflowing of an already-happy heart, presented within the safe walls of a comfortable church. But God knows that faith, like steel, can’t strengthen unless is put through the fire. He knows that the true value of praise comes when it is offered in the midst of pain. He knows that His people are being watched by those who are looking for the kind of peace and provision we claim to have through Him. We are the ones that don’t know those truths, and so He teaches us by allowing the difficulties to come.
The biggest difference between the life of a Christian and the life of a non-believer is that our difficulties serve a very specific purpose: to bring glory to God. Not just a gleeful outpouring of a soul that has known no trouble, but the kind of true praise that acknowledges there is more to suffering than the pain of the moment. The real faith that sees beyond the immediate situation and believes in a design that is beyond human comprehension. The peace that refuses to be rattled when everything is being shaken. The real love that contents itself in the presence of God, and knows no fear and no limits. These qualities are the only answers that will silence the skeptics of the world, and God will use His children to communicate that message to anyone who will listen.
Much of our walk with God is counter-intuitive. We want to do good to those who do good to us, but God says to bless our enemies and to treat them well. We want to avenge our hurts and humiliations, but God says that we are to accept these things as a blessing and leave vengeance to Him. When difficulties come our way, we feel stress and fear—but God consistently tells us to “fear not.” Each time life tempts us to respond in a way that is natural and expected, God calls us to do the opposite. Why? Because it brings Him glory! It confounds the wisdom of the wise of the world. And it humbles and trains our hearts and wills to remember that He is our anchor, our solid place, our reality even over the circumstances of the moment.
In such humility is great strength, the kind of strength we cannot find in ourselves or in the world around us. Matthew Henry writes in his treatise “The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit”:
“Those that through grace are able to compose and quiet themselves are fit to live in this world, where we meet with so much every day to discompose and disquiet us. In general, whether the outward condition be prosperous or adverse, whether the world smile or frown upon us, a meek and quiet spirit is neither lifted up with the one, nor cast down with the other, but still in the same poise; in prosperity humble and condescending, the estate rising, but the mind not rising with it; in adversity encouraged and cheered up, “cast down, but not in despair….”
Are you quiet and composed within your spirit, resting on the never-ending provision of God? Or are you tossed and troubled, elated one minute and crushed the next? God is Almighty over every circumstances; He is the Rock we can cling to in peace and contentment regardless of the waves crashing around us. Calm assurance will speak more to our neighbors than any sermon or oral testimony, and it allows God to shine His glory through our lives.
We do ourselves no favors when we fret and worry; we only give the Enemy an excuse to mock. The strained and anxious Christian is no help to his neighbors, who have worries and cares of their own. If we have nothing to offer than the same floundering as the lost, then we should not be surprised if they do not come to us to find answers. We should turn to our Father so He can quiet and compose us, and outfit us for the work of life and of testimony to others.
This life is a hard walk, and the pain we feel through trials and losses is very real. God records every tear (Psalm 56:8); He is not uncaring regarding your pain, and He promises that one day you will never weep again (Revelation 21:4). Yes, there is pain in this world, but when you’re facing it with God by your side, with the assurance that He sees and that He will be glorified through your difficulty, then there is also a tremendous joy. Don’t become so overwhelmed with the heaviness of life that you don’t embrace the joy,
The term “reckon” is a technical term, related to the balancing of accounts; it does not refer to a feeling or a fancy. You may not feel that your current suffering is light and transient; but you can categorize it as such because the Bible tells us that it is so. Account for your sufferings as being a drop in the bucket compared to the glory that God is revealing in our lives, and rest in His assurance and love knowing that everything that comes our way, whether good or bad, is a tool in His hands to work to our benefit (Romans 8:28).