In thinking through this whole question of suffering, I know that God loves the wayward, broken and hurting. Such is clearly manifested in the life of Jesus Christ, the “exact imprint”of God’s nature (Heb. 1:3). Also, as we noted last time, because of love and a greater good (a stable environment of free-will) we have an existence in which problems and pain are common place. Such isn’t evidence that “God doesn’t care,” but rather it’s the result of the fact that we live in an extremely complex universe which is engulfed in a cosmic war.
With pain and thorny problems in our own lives, I’m reminded of the two-fold promise of God: “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”(2 Th. 3:3) The NIV says that He will “strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” While the Lord of course doesn’t even hint at totally removing the challenges of life, there are two things working on our behalf: 1)God through His influences – Scripture, indwelling Spirit, fellowship, etc. – empowers us in the face of life’s difficulties; and 2)God through His providence and angelic host works to shield us to a degree from them.
If you’re like me in this regard, and I assume that you are, typically the focus of prayer is upon being shielded as opposed to being strengthened. “Lord, please protect my family.” “Lord, put a hedge around our lives.” “Lord, please watch over us in our travel.” “Lord, shield me from evil.” To pray for God’s protection is certainly good and Biblical, however, I wonder if the Lord shares our evasive perspective.
I read where Phillips Brooks said: “Never pray for an easier life—pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers—pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then doing your work will be no miracle—you will be the miracle!” Now that is a challenging thought.
I love how Peter puts it. His words are a stark reminder that the goal of life isn’t about avoiding pain and problems; rather it’s about growing and developing our faith. It’s concerns bearing up under such knowing that in due time we shall be rewarded. Peter says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pt. 1:3-9)
Christian, pray for strength to meet the challenges of life head on. Be strong and remember, not only how much God loves you, but how petty and insignificant the trials of this life will someday seem. My dad used to say, “A hundred years from now what will it matter?” Probably not much if we’re talking about such from an earthly perspective. However, if we allow such to embitter our hearts, destroy our faith and prompt us to give up on God it’s far different. More to come.
You are loved!