All of us carry around in our hearts an image or idea of what we think God is like. But I think it’s important that we let God speak for Himself. So many of our ideas are shaped by the media, by culture, by our past, by our parents, sometimes even by disappointments in life. But let’s let God speak for Himself. That’s what we are attempting to do in these posts where we are addressing “When God doesn’t make sense.”
“Let Me be God” is what I addressed in the last post. That’s one thing God says to us. Another thing I think He would tell us is that pain and difficulty are a reality but not always as a result of sin or a lack of faith. The reality is that for purposes that we don’t always understand God allows painful and difficult experiences in our life.
James is so clear about this out of James 1:2-3 “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way [not “if” but “when”] let it be an opportunity for joy. When your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow.”
The reality is you and I don’t get a vote. Suffering simply happens. We cannot choose whether or not we will suffer. We don’t get to choose how we’ll suffer. We don’t get to chose necessarily how long we’ll endure it. But one thing we do get to choose is how we respond to it.
When you read through this history of the Bible or the history of the Christian faith you will see a trail of suffering and struggle. But somehow in our generations many Christians have come to believe that pain and hardship must be a sign that we’re doing something wrong. Or that God doesn’t care about us. Or that we must not have enough faith. And nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many of the heroes of the Bible both men and women were people who never were delivered from their struggles. In fact, in Hebrews 11, that great chapter on faith says “But others trusted God and were tortured preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains hiding in caves and holes in the ground. Their life was hard.” Verse 39 “All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith yet none of them received all that God had promised.”
They didn’t just have the good life. They suffered and had significant struggles. But they are honored here for their faith in spite of the fact that they weren’t always delivered. They rank among the greatest Christians of all times.
One day Jesus was asked very directly about this whole issue of sin and suffering. In John 9 the Bible says that Jesus was with His disciples and the disciples come to Jesus when they confront a man who was blind from birth. And they say, “Jesus who sinned? Was it this man or his parents?” Jesus very directly and clearly says “Neither one. This has happened so that the power of God and the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Pain is often not at all about punishment but rather about God’s desire to demonstrate His power. Many times suffering is not at all about a rebuke but about a refinement. It is often not about your failure but rather about God’s attempt to build your faith. So God says, “Let Me be God. I’ll decide what I’ll allow into your life but don’t think your suffering is necessarily connected to any kind of sin or lack of faith.”
Next time we will consider a third thing I believe God says to us today.