Many sufferers believe that their trials are from God, who sends them “for their own good.” This is the result of a long history of religious teaching. Tradition has taught us to believe that God wants to smite us more than bless us. It has taught us to expect that the only way to grow is to be pushed and tested by God, as if life is nothing more than a terrible obstacle course that God uses to scour out all the filth and sin in our lives.
David didn’t think that way. He wrote in Psalm 34 the repeated theme that the Lord delivers us from all our troubles (vs. 4, 7, 17, 19). He even had the nerve to believe that God has pleasure in the prosperity of his servant (Psalm 35:27)!
To be balanced, God did send trials and judgment in many places in the Old Testament, but everything changed for the New Testament believer. Jesus satisfied the justice of God on the cross, and came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). The good news of the Gospel is that we do not get judged for our sin, because Jesus paid it all! That is the good news of grace!
Yet so many in the church continue in guilt and condemnation, looking inward at their imperfections instead of turning to the finished work of Christ on their behalf. They then think of trials as a way of somehow making them more holy.
A Way of Escape
If you think God is testing you with a trial, or punishing you with it, it may be difficult to find rest and delight in His goodness. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13).
Instead, believe that no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1Corinthians 10:13). Take note: there will be a way of escape! Many Christians get stuck on “able to bear it” and never think that God may want to get glory from healing or delivering them. They just settle in misery believing that God gets the glory through their “bearing it.”
I’m not saying He can’t be glorified in that way. But why settle for just bearing it when He will make a way of escape? God’s business is deliverance! Paul understood this: And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom (2Timothy 4:18).
But What About Discipline?
Doesn’t God discipline His children?
Yes, but what is discipline? It is something that is very temporary for the sake of bringing about a correction. Most parents do not willfully give discipline. They do it out of necessity, but they would rather avoid it altogether. And they do not continue with it if the child does not get the message. In other words, if the child is not corrected by it, they try something else. They do not, or at least should not, continue in a method of discipline that is proving ineffective. Yet there are many in the church who believe that God is perpetually disciplining them, while they continue to get none the better!
Consider also that there is a difference between discipline and child abuse. It is the devil who is called “the destroyer,” and yet it is God who is often credited for bringing about the tragedies and diseases. Although He can ultimately bring some good out of any situation, I do not believe He is the one who brings such things into our lives. We should not say, “I don’t know why, but God must’ve had some reason for this.” Instead we should recognize that there is a spiritual battle that involves us, and we must learn to resist the devil (James 4:7; see also 1Peter 5:8-9). It is hard to do this, however, when there is so much confusion about the Lord and “His will.”
Giving Thanks for All
An example of such confusion comes from an email I once read, in which a dear brother spoke of his struggle with cancer. He eventually came to the place where he was able to give thanks to God, even for this cancer, because he believed that we should be giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:20).
His desire to be obedient to God’s Word is admirable, but this is a Scripture that needs to be qualified, considering the larger scope and context of the Bible. Surely the “all things” cannot include cancer! Sickness is a part of the curse (see Deuteronomy 28). Jesus came to take away the curse. He came to destroy satan’s works (1John 3:8). Should we be thankful for the devil and death? Should we be thankful for sin?
The Bible says, In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1Thess.5:18). This does not mean that the particular situation you are in is necessarily God’s will for you! If everything that ever happened was God’s will, than we would be forced to say that it is God’s will for us to sin, because we do it all the time!
No, in this verse, the will of God is that we should always give thanks. Even in the worst situation, we should be able to find something to be thankful about. We can always thank God for His love and His promises. If nothing else, we can be thankful that things are not worse. There is always the hope that God can still work. And even if it seems to be the lowest of lows, we can be thankful for the hope of a future when all troubles will be forever done away.
Thankfulness is a key to keeping in the walk of faith, as opposed to giving into circumstances and sight. Proverbs 3:5 says: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, And lean not unto thine own understanding.
My understanding is trying to figure out what this new situation “will mean for me.”
My understanding doesn’t see how this will fit into “my plans.”
My understanding doesn’t see how this could possibly work out for good in my life.
Unfortunately, it is too easy to lean on “my understanding.” It is natural to do so.
On the other hand, instead of, “what will this mean for me,” trust in the Lord says, “Okay Lord-you’ll work everything out.”
Instead of, “how will this affect my plans,” trust in the Lord says, “the Lord can bless me and use me wherever I end up. He will direct my paths better than I could anyway.”
Instead of, “what good can possibly come from this,” trust in the Lord says, “God is good, and He is in the business of turning seeming defeats into victories.” The cross is one such example. From all natural viewpoints, the cross looked like a great tragedy. However, it was on that cross that Jesus accomplished the greatest victory in the world!
It is too easy to lose hope the minute something goes wrong or doesn’t work. If no good appears within an hour it seems that all is lost and the end is near! What is often forgotten is that trust sometimes requires time. Hebrews 6:12 speaks of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Many Christians want to operate in faith but never think of operating with PATIENCE. We have come to expect microwave oven timing while God often works on a slow cooker schedule.
There is suffering and there are trials in life. The goal is to get through them, and you will, if you recognize that God is not the problem, but the ANSWER.