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Encouragement in Trials

Why does a gifted, passionate Biblical counselor get a cancer that causes him to need to step back for a season from his vital counseling ministry? Why does my best friend from childhood spend years raising support to go as a missionary only to arrive to a needy country in Africa and face a tragedy in his family that makes them have to return to the US permanently?  Why did my family have to leave the mission field and what seemed like a promising future helping train leaders and multiply churches because of damage done to one of our children before she was even born by a birth mom and dad who perhaps had no idea the ramifications of their actions? Why do I now have cancer that has made it difficult for me to do my job as youth and missions pastor and that could threaten my ability to raise my children and serve Christ long-term if it is not cured?

Perhaps this question of why, although good to ask of God for a moment, is the wrong question to focus on. The answer to why these things happen is that there is evil and corruption in the world. God’s perfect design was corrupted and broken by the sin of the first people. Yet that is not the whole story. The omnipotent, perfect, good and loving God sovereignly ordains these hard things as blessings for His people. They are ordained by God to bless us. These things happen because God loves us and wants what is best for us. And he never leaves us alone in these things.

Perhaps you are saying, that is the chemotherapy affecting your brain. You are crazy to think such things. But I would reply that I am not crazy. I am seeing things more clearly than ever. Romans 8 leaves little doubt that God indeed in His all-powerful goodness uses these things to bless us.

Romans 8:28-29 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

God blesses us through these difficult things that we face. Sometimes it could be natural disasters or sicknesses. Sometimes it is the sin of others that afflicts us. Sometimes it is our own sin affecting others and our relationships that afflicts us. Whatever the case may be, God’s response is consistent. He weeps with us as we weep at the effects of sin and evil. He is with us through His Spirit in the midst of these difficulties. He looks forward to our Lord Jesus Christ returning to bring an end to all of these things. And He is determined to use each of these difficulties to show us Christ and to conform us to His image.

Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4 each explains how God uses these difficult things to give us the character of Christ. I have seen in each of these tragedies that I mentioned above that God was very present. He showed others and me His nearness and His goodness, even if we didn’t see exactly why the difficult circumstance was happening. He has shown us that His purpose is steadfast – He uses these things to show us how sufficient He is, to show us how real and helpful His present grace is. He uses these things to bring about sanctification and purification of our hearts and lives. He uses these things as platforms that we can use to show others that Jesus Christ is real, that He really is alive and He really is God and He really does rescue us and bring us into His family. God sovereignly ordains that for a season, albeit very short compared to the eternity we will spend with Him, that we would get to suffer and through that suffering we would know Him better.

I rejoice in God. He is so amazing. I get to know Him better as a result of light and momentary affliction that I get to face. So do you. He blesses you with difficulties so that you will look to Him and know Him and become like Him. One might wonder, couldn’t he pick an easier, more comfortable way to do this? But He is the all-wise one. He knows best and His love and wisdom would not allow Him to do things in a way that is second-best. His ways are perfect. He is good. We do not need a logical explanation for this, although many may be put forth. When you know God, when you see Him in the face of Christ, you bow down and thank him. And instead of saying why me to suffering, you say why me to his love and grace? Why did you choose to show me your truth God? Why did you grant me a heart of faith and repentance? Why did you choose to have mercy on me and bring me to yourself when I was your enemy? Why do you promise to give me a glorified body, in the image of your Son, so that for all of eternity I might know you and love you and serve you on the new earth and in the new heavens?

If from His hand we must face difficulties and sufferings and persecutions for a brief moment so that we might become like Christ and we might know Him more fully, this is a very small cost that really is a gift and a blessing.

So today when you face small difficulties, like fighting kids or a challenging relationship or a mundane work situation, look to your God. Know that He wants you to know Him through these difficulties. He wants you to stand in His grace and receive grace to trust in Christ and to become like Christ as you experience His help and His hope. He wants you to be a light to others who see your hope. He wants you to draw very near to Him and experience His grace like you never would if you were not weak. He is our God and Creator, and to be human is to depend on Him. It is a beautiful existence that is as natural as a beautiful flower depending on rain and sun and soil. It is as normal as a newborn babe depending on her mother for life. Worship our good and wonderful God today when you are weak and hurting and in need of His grace. He is so good and no one who draws near to Him for refuge will be disappointed. You can cry out to Him in desperation. He is the God who hears the cry of the brokenhearted. He has shown us that His love is steadfast and endures forever in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Trust in Him today!