Monday, February 14, 2011

A Good God in an Evil World? pt. 3

Even though suffering can clearly be for sin, it is not always the case. But even when there is no sin involved on the part of the person suffering, God can also use that to reveal new things about Him to us. He can turn the difficulties in life into a time of deeper seeking Him, deeper dependence and reliance on Him, and greater spiritual growth as we look to Him for strength. 1 Peter 4:13 reminds us to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Often when people are doing well, they become very self-sufficient, thinking they can handle all that life brings them. It is only when they are faced with tragedy, sickness, suffering, or death that they begin to realize that they are very powerless. In this midst of struggling, for those that turn to God and rely on Him, He often reveals Himself in greater ways and becomes more treasured to them. God is then able to comfort and sustain those who are experiencing affliction or tragedy.

While I have not faced intense suffering or tragedy, I can attest to this truth. The times in my life when things have been difficult or I haven’t understood why something was happening have been the times I have to call upon the Lord because I see my utter weakness and dependency on Him. We are tested when we are prospering, or when we are suffering. But most often we fail the test when we prosper, because we don’t rely on God. God chooses circumstances for our lives to bring greater spiritual growth, not greater happiness. Life is not about being as happy as we can be, but glorifying God in everything. Samuel Rutherford explains,
“Let God make of you what He will, He will end all with consolation, and shall make glory out of your suffering.”
The Lord can then use those times of weakness, the times of hardship, to turn our hearts towards Him, because the faulty things we were building ourselves upon were torn down. God promises to be with us, and even when we go through the deep waters, He will sustain us (Isaiah 43:2). When John Bunyan was separated from his family and thrown in prison for preaching the gospel, he attested to this truth. He explained,
"I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now [in prison]. The Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen him and felt him indeed. . . . I have seen [such things] here that I am persuaded I shall never while in this world be able to express... Being very tender of me, [God] hath not suffered me to be molested, but would with one scripture and another strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often said, were it lawful I could pray for greater trouble for the greater comfort's sake."
God is in absolute control and uses our circumstances, however grim or unfair they may seem to us, to work in our lives by revealing more of Himself to us. As John Piper articulates, “This is God's universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.” And this proves true for many Christians as they experience suffering. It is not a bad thing, but fills us with greater joy as we look forward to our future glory, worshiping God for all of eternity.


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