As the creation, we struggle to understand the ways of our Creator. He allows things we can’t untangle. How would we minister to ISIS slave girls who are abused repeatedly because they are Christian? How do we explain suffering versus prosperity to the starving Christians imprisoned in North Korea? On a more personal note, what should I say to the pastor who lost his daughter to cancer? What words can I offer the sleep-deprived mother who is worn to a thread and finds her emotions crashing with the power of a Tsunami wave?
So, I offer this instead. In the Psalms, David cries out to the Lord, yet he is nevertheless determined to believe in God’s goodness and power even in the midst of his angst (Psalm 62). I consider Paul’s words that he can do all things through Christ… how to abound and how to be abased. Paul’s resolve to be content no matter his life’s circumstance both encourages and challenges me (Philippians 4:12-13).
I talk about the comfort waiting on the other side of life. A new heaven and earth will be made one day and we will know no more sorrow and pain. Hope is waiting, my friends. Real tangible hope. Not the shallow stuff of empty promises. It’s the hope that has kept countless Christians worldwide for hundreds of years secure in their faith no matter what they endured.
Now that I’ve said all of this, I want to make it clear the other flip side is sinful. It has a name. Worry. Have you been there? I have. Not trusting God can heal me when I’m instructed to ask the elders to lay hands on the sick and anoint with oil. Not admitting God is merciful and will forgive me. Not believing God can carry me out of temptation or help me move beyond my own sinful choices and consequences. Remaining unconvinced God can’t or won’t provide for my physical needs when he says he will. Not expecting God can mend damaged relationships or soften hardened hearts.
Both positions elevate me in the end. One, I’m a god and I tell God what to do. Or, I’m still a god and believe in my own sufficiency while wallowing in a wasteland of anxiety.
Neither extreme can sustain faith for long.
We are confident that God will work all things out to the benefit of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Will he calm the storm in the boat as he did with Peter? Yes. Jesus just might do that for you…but for his glory. Or, will he allow you to sit in dark imprisonment at Patmos as John did? Even if the unthinkable occurs, God promises to be right there. It was at a barren island John received a revelation full of future hope and glory.
When we recognize nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; no height, depth, power or current circumstance, we are set free. We remember we have a heavenly father with whom we can petition those tough needs. We recall the Holy Spirit groans for us with each whispered prayer. He intercedes when things are painful and there are no words to express our despair (Romans 8:26).
And that my friend, is perhaps the greatest test of faith and obedience. We trust in the sovereignty of God, in the goodness of God and in his mercy. He will always prove faithful—even in the midst of a wave tossed sea.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13
Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him. he alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. my salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. Psalm 62:5-7