One of the more interesting lines of thought throughout the entire Scriptures is the concept that God allows horrible things to happen to us.
Job is one of those quintessential stories:
Job 1 (NASB) 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and [b]Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you [c]considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, [d]fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the [e]Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” 12 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your [f]power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
All his possessions get carried off by marauders. All his children die. All his friends desert him save 3 who want him to curse God. His wife wants him to curse God. Yet he doesn’t.
As Christians living in fairly affluent societies we tend to take troubling times as that we did something wrong or we did something such that God would punish us.
For example, if I went out and sinned by hurting another person I would simply have to reap the consequences. If I wanted to make it right I would have to offer an apology. God was not involved with such evil acts committed by myself, and the consequences of the evil acts fall on me alone.
However, when troubling circumstances or evil befalls you possibly for even no reason at all that’s not God which is causing your circumstances or temptations. But the comforting thing is to know that He allowed it to happen. We can stand firm that Jesus promised to Christians that we will have difficulty walking through life in His name.
Let me explain this through the alternatives.
- If I’m a Christian and I’m walking away from God then what trouble will there be? Perhaps none in some circumstances. To those who would fall into apostasy that is only more proof that God doesn’t exist. There’s no reason for Satan or demons to attack those who are already going astray of their own will.
- If I’m a Christian who is complacent or lukewarm then what trouble will there be? Life often goes swimmingly when we’re just moving through it minding our own business and only concerned about ourselves. But what growth is there in that? While you could say that at least the person is not deserting their faith what credit is that to their relationship between God and others? Time is one of the resources that we all have and if we’re squandering it then that’s inevitably a bad thing. God hates the lukewarm and will spit them out of His mouth.
- But when we follow God that’s often when things are troubling. How hard is it to speak up for the truth among non-believers when they say bad things about you or the church? How hard is it to speak up in the midst of believers when they espouse equality or feminism in marriage rather than what God values? I know personally I have failed to speak up in such circumstances, but I am getting better.
The simple fact is that it’s the easy way out in #1 and #2. Often times consequences won’t be severe or there at all. You may be rewarded for acting unrighteous. But God cannot be mocked.
Similarly, the very nature of the Christian walk is that it is going to be hard. When you are doing what is right there is going to be troubling times coming your way. You will be disliked and hated by other people. You will become a target of attack. Paul did.
2 Corinthians 11 (NASB)
21 To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they [g]descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in [h]far more labors, in [i]far more imprisonments, [j]beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, [k]through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and [l]exposure. 28 Apart from such [m]external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is [n]led into sin [o]without my intense concern? 30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
My point is that it’s always easy to play the victim. Woe is me. Why are these things happening to me?
“Christian” nice guys have this same mindset. Why is all of this so hard? Why do I have to do this and that? Why can’t women love me for who I am? “Christian” feminist women do the same.
Was Jesus a victim? Was Paul a victim? Was David a victim? Was Abraham a victim?
Opportunities and challenges
I’ve somewhat discussed this peripherally on this blog before, but often the greatest witness is when you can act righteously when the situations are the most difficult.
Have a rebellious wife? God allowed that to happen. Have disobedient children? God allowed that to happen. The church has become ingrained with feminism to the point of churchianity? God allowed that to happen. Your boss hates you for no good reason? God allowed that to happen.
Some of the fault may lie with you because we are responsible for our own actions. But some of the fault may also lie with them because they are supposed to be Christians as well. However, regardless of how much “fault” there may be to go around, this does not change how you are supposed to respond.
As I stated in apologies one, two and three, it is important to confess your fault and move on to do the right thing. Even if the other person doesn’t want to do it. Even if they maltreat you because of it. Even if try to goad you on to do the wrong thing. Even if they refuse to repent themselves. Even if they think they’ve done nothing wrong.
It is not they that matter, it is God that matters.
Matthew 5 (NASB) 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Instead, hardship is an opportunity to action. And opportunity to do what is right. To overcome adversity and do what is righteous.
I don’t feel like reading my Bible today? I should read my Bible today. I don’t feel like praying today? I should pray to today. I don’t feel like talking to people today? I should talk to people today with love, joy, peace, and kindness. People are saying horrible things about me? I should pray for them and bless them. I don’t want to eat healthy? I should eat healthy. I don’t want to work hard? I should work hard.
The true test of faith comes when there are hardships. It separates the wheat from the chaff. Remember, God allowed such hardships to happen. There is always a choice. But the righteous choice is often the hardest choice.
- Difficulty and hardships and overcoming them are a sign of growth, especially in the maturity of Christians. A lack of difficulty and hardships is a bad sign because you are either stagnating or regressing.
- What are you going to do with the difficult situations that God allowed to happen? Will you be a blessing or a curse?