“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’” Job 37:5-6 NIV
Job suffered greatly through horrific earthly trials. He questioned God. He endured bogus advice and proclamations from his “friends.” Yet, he didn’t turn away from God, as his wife advised (Job 2:9). Though Job couldn’t imagine the reasons for his trials, he kept crying out to God because he believed he’d get an answer.
Why do we ever doubt that God will answer our prayers? What we’re really saying is we don’t feel He’s capable of coming through. Or perhaps He has a pair of cosmic dice He rolls, and some prayers get answered and some don’t. Since the pattern of answered prayer doesn’t make sense to us, there must be some weird system for saying who lives, who dies, who gets promoted or gets the new house or job promotion over someone else.
Job’s friends, even in their best effort to encourage him, gave him erroneous advice and reasons as to why he was suffering. After all, when someone goes through the level of calamity Job did, they must have done something to deserve it, right?
Or worse yet, God struck them down for their sins.
So, let’s take a look at some of the reasons we might go through dark periods in our life.
God allows trials to grow us.
Take the situation of Jacob. He stole his brother Esau’s birthright and their father’s final blessing. He set out to Harran to go to his Uncle Laban’s family to find a wife. What Jacob didn’t know is his ability to outscheme people would pale in comparison to his future father-in-law’s. Years later, after fleeing with his two wives, Rachel and Leah, Jacob had an encounter with the Lord (Genesis 32:22-32). Ironically, God had allowed several trials in Jacob’s life, including working fourteen years for the woman he loved. All of this prepared Jacob for his ultimate role in the nation of Israel, yet Jacob still didn’t completely yield to God.
God will chase us—and even allow pain to bring us closer to Him.
Ultimately, God had to inflict pain on Jacob to get him to stop running and trying to fulfill his own agenda, which often was devious. In verse 26, Jacob had not only stopped running, he did a complete about face after his encounter with God. He clung to God.
“But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” Genesis 32:26b
God wants a relationship with His people. That’s ultimately why He created us.
Yet we have free wills. We can choose to reject or accept God. We can choose paths that lead to destruction or create hedges around us that can’t be toppled easily. We often don’t seek God’s will in our lives when things are going well. Humans tend to only cry out to a “higher power” when they’re in dire straits.
As Christians, we were bought with a price. We are no longer free to do the things we did before, without consequence.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
The Apostle Paul learned that his perpetual trial of a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) kept him close to God. Paul spoke of “praying continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
God’s ultimate judgment will come in eternity.
This isn’t a reason for a trial, but a rebuttal of those who believe trials are a judgment. Certainly, we can experience self-inflicted trials from lifestyle choices, but God doesn’t have to go around smiting people to meter out punishment. Nor do we have to try to decipher if He is doing so.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the “Why?” question when we suffer trials. God can handle questions, and He answers us. Sometimes the answer points to eternity and is one we wouldn’t be able to apply to our lives now.
But looking at other people’s afflictions and thinking, “Look at how they live,” or “They brought that on themselves,” is just plain wrong.
What we’re really saying when we try to give people a reason for their trials, or worse yet, whisper behind their back or grumble in our souls, is that we’re willing to play God.
And when we try to fill in for God, we’re taking on an impossible role. He knows what’s best for us. Why wrestle Him and settle for second best by insisting on our way? Every journey goes over rough roads, mountaintops, and through valleys. And through it all, He walks with us, never leaving or forsaking us.
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b
Remember that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) and “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). In your darkest moments, cling to the assurance that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).
What trial have you walked through where you clearly saw God’s hand in the midst of it, even when others offered bad advice like Job’s friends did? Was there a particular Bible passage that helped you during this time?
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©Laura Hodges Poole
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