Is your life hard right now? When you look at others, do you sometimes wonder why they’re not struggling like you are, why things seem to be going better for them? Worse than that, are your disappointments and difficulties causing you to start questioning God–whether He really loves you, whether He’s seeing what’s happening, whether He even cares?
“Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NCV)
God definitely sees what’s going on with us, He loves us, and He cares. But we sometimes misunderstand our relationship with Him. He is the God of the universe and beyond. He does not exist for us, to grant our every wish; we exist for Him, to serve Him, worship Him and glorify Him. He is the Lord and Master of all, and this means He gets to do (or allow) things in our life as He sees fit, and He doesn’t have to answer to us, or explain why. Job, who lost wealth, children, and his health, didn’t get an explanation; we may not either. What Job did get, however, was a better understanding of God and his relationship to Him:
“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness? As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors. The light disturbs the wicked and stops the arm that is raised in violence.
“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths? Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know!
“Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced!
“Have you visited the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail? (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war.) Where is the path to the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind?
“Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up?
“Does the rain have a father? Who gives birth to the dew? Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes.
“Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth? “Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct? Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods?
“…Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”” (Job 38:1-33, 40:2 NLT)
God says so much more, but Job understood, and we must too.
God does love us–more than our human minds can fully comprehend:
“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan. God knew them before he made the world, and he chose them to be like his Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. God planned for them to be like his Son; and those he planned to be like his Son, he also called; and those he called, he also made right with him; and those he made right, he also glorified. So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can defeat us. He did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all. So with Jesus, God will surely give us all things. Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us. Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death? But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:28-35, 37-39 NCV)
“God planned for them to be like His Son.” The reason God allows disappointments and difficulties into our lives is to conform us to the image of Christ–to make us more like Jesus.
“God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory, so he made the One who leads people to salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10 NCV)
Jesus was perfected through suffering, and we are too. Remember that the Father “…cuts off every branch in…[Christ] that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2 NIV) The pruning hurts and we would prefer not to experience it, but it is exactly this which perfects us.
And that is why we are instructed to, “Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NCV)
The truth is that your life may be hard now; others might really be having an easier time of it. But rest assured that God has a plan and He knows what He’s doing.
So how should we respond? Should we complain and grumble and accuse God of not having our well-being at heart? Should we be ungrateful like the Israelites who didn’t trust His purposes and provision in their lives, and were judged for it? Or, should we understand that “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,” and “…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV)
Help me not grumble, but give thanks in all things! Amen.