I’ve been writing this column for almost six years now. Some of you have been readers from the very beginning – others may be reading it for the first time. My hope is that it is an encouragement and guide to you on your spiritual journey.
The longer I write, the more I find myself addressing what might be referred to as the mysteries of God. Let’s face it – God is not easy to understand. If He was, He wouldn’t be God. Be glad you have a god that you can’t understand. That means He’s more than the sum of your thoughts, greater than your problems and higher than your expectations. If you could understand all there is about God then He would be no greater than your IQ. I want a god who is vastly greater than my IQ.
One of the great mysteries related to God is why life happens the way it does. Why doesn’t God intervene in bad situations? Why does He allow/determine things to happen to His children that bring sorrow and pain? Why does He seem silent . . . uninterested . . . uncaring? If God is sovereign, isn’t He in control of life? And if He is in control of life, why doesn’t He solve our problems? Why doesn’t He remove all evil? Why doesn’t He just DO something?
No one has all of the answers to such cosmic questions, but as I have reflected on this issue some thoughts came to mind. I need to hear them – perhaps you do too.
1. It may be that God has intervened and you haven’t yet recognized it. We are dealing here with not only what we can see, but what we can’t see. Remember Elisha’s servant who saw the mighty army of the Syrians but couldn’t see the army of God until his eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:17). Much of what God does in our lives is done in the realm of the unseen. Don’t think that just because you cannot see what God is doing that He has failed to act. Ask Him in His grace to help you to see.
2. Remember that God’s highest goal is His glory (Exodus 20:2, Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). We want God’s highest priority to be us. We want Him to spend His time (if we can even refer to God and time in the same breath) solving our problems. I know that God is the ultimate multitasker – I’m not making a reference here to God but to us. We need to keep the truth in front of us that when God acts, He ultimately acts for His own glory. That might mean that the trials we face are intended to enhance His glory in ways that we cannot understand. Ask God to glorify Himself through you.
3. God may use the bad in your life for the good in someone else’s. Life isn’t just about us – it’s about all of us. As Christians we are to live our lives for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the benefit of others (Galatians 6:10). Joseph’s trials were for the good of his family and ultimately the nation of Israel. Paul’s prison experience was for the good of the Philippian jailer and his family. Christ’s death was for the good of those who trust Him as savior. Good often comes out of bad – and if the spiritual good of another person can come out of your pain, well isn’t that worth it?
4. God may be trying to change you. Real spiritual change rarely comes from pleasant circumstances. It normally comes out of hardship (James 1:2-4). When life is good we tend to sit back and enjoy it. It’s when life is painful that we begin to examine it and search for answers. That process will lead to change. In fact the Christian life is all about change – changing into the image of Christ. Take encouragement from your trials – they mean that God isn’t through with you yet (Hebrews 13:21).
5. God forgives all confessed sin but He doesn’t always remove the consequences of our sin. We tend to think that when God forgives, He removes the sin and the results of our sin. It’s true that He removes the sin and puts it on His Son. It’s also truth that He removes the eternal consequences of sin. But He doesn’t always choose to remove the temporal consequences. The alcoholic may suffer the ravages of a diseased liver even after confessing his sin. Many of our problems in life fall into this category. We suffer even though we are walking with God because of choices made in the distant past. When that is the case, ask God for grace to handle the trials (Hebrews 4:16).
6. The actions of other people impact my life. It may not be fair but it is reality. What other people do; the choices they make can have a significant impact – often negative – on our lives. While we may not be able to control what they do, we can control how we respond. This is where faith comes in. As Christians we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is we choose to respond in a Jesus imitating way instead of how we would like to respond.
God is a mystery, however the Christian life isn’t. He’s told us how to live. It won’t be easy but it is possible. Ask Him for strength to get you through.
Stay in the Word