The trials John and I have been going through since October seem relentless! And, although I understand God’s sovereignty, I find it difficult not to question Him about that the circumstances He’s ordained for us. I don’t like them and I want relief, so I’d prefer to know what He’s doing so I can learn my lesson and get on with life, thank you very much.
As you’d expect, my mind immediately goes to Job. Granted, my present first-world suffering is minuscule compared to his, but like him I find myself pretty much demanding that God explain Himself to me.
Then I remember God’s answer to Job. In a nutshell, God declared that He didn’t owe Job an explanation; as Creator, He has every right to do as He pleases. Appealing to His sovereignty in creation, He challenged Job to match His knowledge and power. Of course, the confrontation humbled Job, causing him to repent of his presumption and arrogance.
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.” ~~Job 42:1-6 (ESV)
Okay, I say to myself, perhaps I should ask what the Lord wants me to learn from these trials. I figuratively pat myself on the back for my obvious teachable attitude. Surely, it shows that I have admirable humility!
That slant indeed sounds a little more humble, but could it be a subtle twist on Job’s presumption? When I seriously examine it, I can see that it’s an attempt to gain control. Trying to escape my suffering by “obediently” learning my lesson clearly demonstrates that I really care more about alleviating my pain than I do about His purposes in bringing me through the trials.
I forget that God uses my difficulties for reasons far more eternal than simply modifying my behavior. He wants to shape my character, making me fit for heaven.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
So if God won’t explain Himself or give me a way of ending my pain, how do I respond properly to my circumstances? In my estimation, a big part of dealing with these trials is believing that He is in control and that He is using everything to help me honor and glorify Him.
But more than all that, He allows this suffering to give me assurance that my faith is real. Sure, I rant and rage, declaring that life isn’t fair. I want relief from all the pressures, wondering how much more John and I can take before one (or both) of us has a heart attack. But in the turmoil, I continue believing that God cares.
Scripture says that trials enable us to see how genuine our faith really is.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~~1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)
I don’t know why John and I must endure so much physical and emotional hardship right now. If the Lord has some great lesson He wants to teach us, I certainly don’t know what it is. But maybe I don’t have to know. Maybe trusting Him is enough.