HA few weeks ago, I ran into a man that I haven’t seen in several years. He claims to be a believer, but he also claims to be mad at God. He loves LeRoy, and several times he expressed to me how it just doesn’t make sense what has happened to him. Then he moved on to talk about the horrific tragedies of life: children being killed by drunk drivers, children dying of cancer . . . all those kinds of things that make no sense to us. “Why would God do that?” he was asking.
My answer was the same I give to everyone. I know that God has a good purpose, and that He desires to use this to bring Himself glory.
Yes, it is strange and puzzling to me that God would remove my husband from ministry (hopefully only temporarily)—a man that is the most godly individual I’ve ever known, who I’m privileged to serve as his caregiver, who I’d rather hear communicate the Word of God than any preacher I’ve ever sat under . . . it is just perplexing that God chose to “put him on the shelf” right now. But one thing I do know—God is wise and He is good, and He proved His love for us at the cross . . . so I know that this trial isn’t because God does not love us or because God is unjust.
This trial is for God’s glory.
“But how does a kid getting hit by a car bring God glory?” the man asked.
I told him that the horrific event is not what brings God glory. God hates destruction and the chaos that depravity has brought to our lives . . . but God uses those things to accomplish His purposes. God is not glorified by the evil or the trauma . . . but He is glorified by our response to those things. God gets glory when our response is to trust Him, to worship Him in the pain (as Job did), and as we convey to others that He is worthy of our trust and worship.
When we worship during our pain and suffering, it validates the reality of the God whom we serve.
I’ve been studying the book of James this month, and it’s been such a helpful read in this season. James provides a joyful perspective for trials. (In the next few weeks, I may be sharing a few lessons I’m gleaning from the study.) He wrote to believers who were facing real challenges.
James opens with an invitation to joyfully embrace trials that will produce spiritual maturity, and the book closes with an invitation to live out your faith in evangelism. “Joyfully embracing trials” seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But, as is obvious, if you’ve walked with God for any amount of time, God doesn’t usually do things exactly the way we would. He often takes us on surprising turns.
God is no “tame lion” or domesticated deity, you know.
James wrote this letter during a time when Christians were enduring intense persecution under Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12). The first century was a dangerous time to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. It was “risky” to be known as a Christian, in fact, less than two decades after James penned these words he would be martyred for the faith.
Because of the persecution, many Jewish believers scattered from Jerusalem and the surrounding area. And to these new believers that were living under threat of death, suffering from persecution, and the upheaval of being forced from their homes and livelihood, James delivered an astounding imperative:
[box]“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2–3)[/box]
How in the world can he tell these poor sufferers to consider their trial joy? What is up with that?
In a comfort-driven culture, it seems odd to couple the word “joy” with affliction, persecution, or trial. But the joy James is challenging us to embrace is not a “Pollyanna” cheerfulness produced from a “name it and claim it” theology or a self-induced positive attitude.
It may sound crazy, but joy and intense trial can coexist.
This verse from 1 Peter has helped me understand how to view trials with a perspective of joy:
[box]“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).[/box]
Joy is a byproduct of trust. When we realize that we can “entrust” ourselves to our “faithful Creator,” knowing what He does is right, then joy becomes the companion of trust.
Our ability to “trust” while walking through trial depends on our view of God.
If we truly believe two things about God, we will be able to place our trust in Him. We must first know that God is God and I am not. In other words, God is the only One with the right to rule my life. He is my Creator, therefore He has every right to choose what He does with His creation. He is my Redeemer, therefore He has every right to what He allows to happen to His possession.
He is God. This means that He is sovereign, ruler, deity, almighty. He is God.
Secondly, we must know that God is good. God’s character is faithfulness, truthfulness, justice, and mercy, love in its purest form—holy and compassionate. Jesus proved His love by pouring out His blood on the cross, atoning for the wrath I deserved, even while I was dead in my sin. God is good, and because He is good—I can trust Him more implicitly than any other being.
When we view our circumstances of life through the grid of God’s sovereignty, we can trust that God is able to take every painful event, every instance of suffering and beautifully weave it into His plan.
As I walked away from the man in the grocery store, my prayer was that he would think about the wonder of a God who doesn’t do things the way we might expect, or even want, but that this God is worthy of our allegiance and worship—even when we don’t understand what He’s doing. That this God is so wise that He can take the depravity and injustice of a fallen world and still bring redemptive and life-giving works out of the chaos.
The only way to resolve the perplexing conflict of man’s suffering with the reality of God’s sovereignty is through the lens of the cross. That is where His goodness and love was demonstrated. That is where He proved that He is trustworthy. That is why we can count it all joy when we meet trials.
The cross explains how God is brought glory through the worst that man can do.
Dear reader, are you struggling with trial today? How might we pray for you?
Dear Friends, your prayers are a tangible means of God’s grace in our lives. If you are new to the blog, and unaware of what we’re walking through and how we need your prayers, I hope you’ll read this post from the archives. Even though I’m unable to respond to your comments, I do read every one. For those who share prayer needs, I lift those to the Father and am so grateful to be entrusted with your prayer request. I love to hear from you, so please continue to leave your comments knowing that they matter!T