I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not able to receive it.
—I Corinthians 3:2
We are born. We get married. We raise kids. We pay taxes. Then we die.
From Seventh Dimension — The Door, a Young Adult Christian Fantasy quoted from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.
All the world’s a stage.
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts
His acts being seven ages.
—Mrs. Wilkes, chapter two
Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? While the above statement is an exaggeration, at times I have felt like life is far too woeful with little reward. But without God, life would be a hundred times worse.
Goodness in the world is an extension of God’s love. Hardship is an extension of his grace. How much darker the world would be without God’s presence. Would we even know the difference between good and evil without the Holy Spirit? I am thankful for absolutes. God does not change, and when I feel threatened, I am comforted by knowing that God holds everything together.
You lose your job, your home, your health—God allows it. An accident lands you in the hospital—God allows it. Sorrow is part of the human condition—all over the world.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods ravage and destroy property. The toll on human life is difficult to comprehend. “Why, God?”
Randomness is universal to us. God causes it to rain on the just and unjust.
I used to think I suffered because I was bad. I thought bad things happened because I deserved it. Some Christians will tell you that if you get a disease, it’s because there is sin in your life or you don’t have enough faith. If you had more faith, you would be healed of your disease.
Or if you suffer economic hardship, you must have done something to cause a reversal in your fortunes—something you did displeased God.
Perhaps, when I was young, this is where I got the idea that I was born under a cloud. You shouldn’t make that correlation because it’s not true.
Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Why? We live in a fallen, sinful world. Although God is in control, he allows events to happen. While life might seem random to us, it’s not random to God.
Why do bad things happen? I don’t know. I don’t know the mind of God. I have often said, when I get to heaven, I want him to tell me why he allowed this thing to happen or that thing to happen. Then I quickly remind myself, when I see him, it will no longer matter. He will wipe away my tears.
Besides, God already knows the outcome. The process is for our benefit—to reveal what’s in our heart. How much do we really love God? Do we only love him when we receive good things from him and not hard things? How well do we know ourselves?
God cares about the process. If the process of suffering draws us nearer to him, then God can be glorified in our suffering. When I feel that I can’t take “it” anymore, God reminds me that my momentary afflictions will not be remembered in heaven. One of my favorite expressions is, “this, too, shall pass.”
Besides that, where else can we go? If we hit rock bottom, where will we turn? Who holds the answers? Who understands us? If we can glorify God despite hardship and loss and suffering, then we know we love God—not because he gives us good things, but because we know he is with us in the hard things.
Throughout history, Christians have suffered at the hands of others. Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were taken to a concentration camp during World War II after helping Jews to escape the Holocaust. Betsie died while in the camp.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs shares the testimonies of Christians who have died for their faith. I tried to read this book with my older daughter when we homeschooled. I couldn’t quit crying.
An average of 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith each year (http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm).
While you may never suffer persecution, there are other forms of suffering. There’s disease, hunger, disability, hardship, and death. God never promised that Christians wouldn’t suffer. A student is never above his master. Jesus suffered unimaginable pain and separation from God when he died on the cross. If God wanted to spare the death of his son on the cross, surely he could have avoided the process, but he chose not to.
Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from him, but it didn’t happen. Jesus willingly chose to die. Thousands of angels would have come to his rescue had he asked. He didn’t. Jesus willingly died for you and for me. That was his passion, and God has given you yours.
It’s in the process that we choose how we shall live—what our attitudes will be and what choices we’ll make. Are we willing to sacrifice and toil and labor for the God whom we claim we love, or will we succumb to our sinful nature? Life is about the process. We’re born and we die, but it’s all the stuff in between about which God cares.
When you enter college, you meet with a guidance counselor who will create a plan for your four-year academic career. For example, if you want to be a doctor, you must take calculus. At the end of the semester, you must take a test to see if you have mastered the subject. You can’t graduate from college if you don’t pass all your tests and complete the requirements laid out for you by the counselor.
If we never faced challenges, we would never be tested. God tested Abraham when he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God knew what Abraham would choose, but did Abraham himself know? The process of becoming reveals to us who we are in Christ.
In the same way, God has a plan. His plan is to help you become more like Jesus. Our sanctification, the process of becoming, will not be completed here. In Pilgrims Progress, Christian overcame many obstacles along the way, and as the name of the book implies, he progressed in his faith until God called him home. We are becoming Christian.
God gives us times of rest and times of work, times of war and times of peace, times of tearing down and times of building up, but in everything under the sun, we are becoming.
We need Christian leaders, peacemakers, and prayer warriors. These heroes of the faith aren’t born that way—they have become that way. While God gives us gifts to become, it’s up to us to use the talents he gives us. If we misuse our gifts or pride puffs us up, God may take away our gifts and give them to someone else.
In the low points of our life we feel the depth of God’s love. Oh, the Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus Samuel Trevor Francis wrote in his well-known Christian hymn. Years earlier as a teenager he had contemplated suicide. Perhaps a better question to ask is not why I have suffered so much, but how much more would I have suffered without God’s grace?
Only when we arrive home will we be made perfect in Jesus Christ. Until then, we are becoming—and suffering is part of that process—our passion.
Dear Jesus, when bad things happen, you are with me. Even if I am fearful, I will trust in you; and if I trust in you, who can separate me from your love?