When Bad Things Happen
Bad things happen to all of us, but some seem to get more than their share. If we stop to contemplate it at all, we likely look first for something the person did to contribute to their condition. What about them keeps them from receiving God’s blessing, favor, and/or protection? This question from a human perspective is seen clearly in the friends of Job who accused him of disobedience, thereby making him susceptible to illness, financial hardship, cruel treatment, oppression, loss, etc. as a result.
It’s easy to make judgments on others; but, what happens when we ourselves suffer inexplicable hardships? Do we look for whatever could be our contributions to the situation, or do we figure that the randomness of life has struck and “[God] sends rain on the just and the unjust”? (Matt 5:45) The problem is, if God is Sovereign over all, then nothing is random. In that regard, some of us might be so accustomed to living in crisis that we judge ourselves as not worthy of God’s favor, and doomed to suffer without remedy all our lives. Either way, hardship gets our attention, and most of us will seek any possible means out. Interestingly, asking the Lord about it is usually our last resort, because nothing else has worked.
There are actually appropriate questions we should be asking to determine if we’re in disobedience. Have I failed to examine my heart and ask forgiveness for attitudes, words, and behaviors? Is my heart full of pain and anger because someone has wronged me and I have failed to forgive? Am I cooperating with God in growing past the things that drive and control my thoughts and behavior? What does God want me to learn? These questions are so far reaching and go so deep that we really should be addressing them daily for the rest of our lives.
But if we’re already faithfully doing that, and bad stuff continues, then what? Numerous Old Testament examples (Joseph, Job, David, Hezekiah) teach us that God will test our hearts with hardship to see what comes out when squeezed. Ultimately, He corrects our attitudes and reactions so that we can bring glory to Him. All of us marvel at people who do extraordinary things under tremendous handicaps.
In the New Testament, we find Paul with a “thorn in the flesh” that God refused to remove. He was protecting Paul from himself with regard to pride that follows tremendous spiritual revelation. Beyond that, Paul’s entire ministry could be classified as moving from hardship to hardship. But Paul shares God’s revelation with us: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Consider the training that a Navy Seal or an Army Ranger receives. They are subjected to the worst of circumstances, deprived of basic necessities like food and sleep, and expected to accomplish the mission. Most in training do not make it. But those who do are changed through their endurance and perseverance. Likewise, persevering through our sufferings brings about the Godly character that permits us to step into our true identities in Christ (not who we think we are). Could our sufferings be the very pathway to God’s purpose and our significance that we’ve searched for all our lives?/p>
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to complain.