I am sure that you have all heard people say that all things work for good. You have probably also heard people say that God will not give you more than you can handle. Perhaps you have even been told that in order to turn a situation around, all you need is more faith.
But in reality, we do not always see the good that comes from evil. When people insult us or mistreat us, we do not always see justice served. Many times we do not even get to know why God allowed a bad thing or situation to happen to us. And YES, God will give you more than you can handle. We are only humans, we frequently cannot handle all that comes at us, that is why we need both community (others to support us) and the Lord to help carry our burdens. And finally, having faith does not always prevent a bad thing from happening or even change the results of a current situation.
Near the end of 2016, my mother passed away from colon cancer. I knew that God could heal her if he desired, but I also know that he frequently does not heal people from cancer. My mother was not healed. I believe that she had faith that God could heal her, I had faith, but it did not happen. Why? Because it was not God’s plan to do so. Furthermore, cancer was more than she could handle. Near the end of her life, she asked why it was taking so long to die. And then there is the question of good. Can we really say it is ever good for someone to die from cancer? Is it really “good” that people die at all?
Where do we get the idea that God plans to make us prosper? That God plans to give us nothing but smooth sailing in life? I often hear these two verses used to support such ideas:
Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
And Romans 8:28, which reads, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
But interpreted correctly the first passage states that God does not plan to harm us. God does not commit acts of evil against us, furthermore we do have a hope–that hope is to live in his presence eternally, but it has nothing to do with smooth sailing now. In the second passage, we see that all things work together for good, but exactly what is good? Is it what we view as good? Or is it good in that all things we do for the Kingdom bring glory to God? It seems to me that God is glorified in all we do for his Kingdom. In fact, this verse comes from a section of Romans where Paul is explaining how he rejoices in all that he suffers for the sake of the Gospel.
Here are some verses that bring balance to the belief that God wants us to just be happy and have easy lives.
James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
and Job 14:1 “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.”
God is less concerned with our desire to have a cushy existence, and more concerned with our desire to remain faithful in light of persecution.
God does not leave us or forsake us. God is with us when we suffer (just as he is with his people who continually suffer throughout the entirety of the Old and New Testaments).
Sometimes we see the good that comes from trials or tribulation; sometimes we don’t.
Sometimes we get to learn why God allows something to happen; sometimes we don’t.
Our days are full of trouble, everyone has issues. Everyone is in need of God’s love and support to help them get their messed-up, out of shape lives in order. To do this, of course, still takes a lifetime.
Believers suffer from depression and cancer, they live in disfunctional families, and they all struggle with sin.
When we suffer, we have an opportunity–the opportunity to see our situation as a chance to draw closer to the Lord, to trust him in the midst of evil, and to pray that others will see his glory, light, and love through what we are facing.
This week, instead of looking for opportunities to live in a way that you find pleasing, embrace the ugly, messed-up, frustrating, and evil situations you find yourself in, and use them to draw closer to God.
Thank God for being with you in the midst of your chaos and struggles. Count it a joy when you suffer for the Gospel.
In fact, write down all the ways in which you are currently suffering…then see how you can connect those things to your faith.