It is probably safe to say that every individual on this earth, presently and throughout history, has dealt with a measure of suffering. Some more than others, granted, but no one is a stranger to the issues that plague mankind: health complications, loss of employment, death, emotional pain—suffering is an inherent trait of humanity. Suffering is painful, it is uncomfortable, and I have never known anyone experiencing suffering to have prayed directly for it. It is quite natural to desire good health, consistent employment, and a general sense of ease in life. We must come, however, to the realization of two great points. Firstly, and to be quite blunt: God does not owe you a single thing; He does not owe me a single thing. Perhaps it is the age of entitlement in which we live or the skewed perception of God we maintain that we tend to view God as a “heavenly genie in a lamp” bound to answer our every wish. We take for granted the place of intimacy into which we have been brought where we can “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16) We mistake arrogance for boldness, and we demand (even if only in our hearts) that a God of love should keep us from all discomfort and provide for us every pleasure. We stamp our feet in the presence of the Almighty and cast blame upon Him when a loved one dies, when we lose our jobs, or we are diagnosed with a terminal or chronic illness. “Lord, why me?” is the prayer we pray. The Bible does not tell us that God demonstrates His love by preventing these experiences. Rather, “God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God demonstrated the fact of His love in that Christ died for us; God demonstrated the measure of His love in that He did so while we were yet sinners. Whenever we are tempted to doubt the love and provision of God, may our minds be drawn back to the cross where God demonstrated the greatest form of love for the most unlovely and undeserving of recipients, having paid the greatest price for worthless men and women lost in sin. If we are to begin to plumb the depths of the love of God, we must begin at the cross, for it is here God has chosen to paint His masterpiece of love on the pages of human history. If we are to pray, “Lord, why me?” let it be in regards to the love He displayed and the salvation he freely offers.
The second point we must come to realize, is that God never promised a comfortable life for the follower of Jesus Christ—in fact, He promised quite the opposite: “In the world you shall have tribulation…” (John 16:33). For those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, salvation from sin is the beginning of a journey, an adventure wherein God is given the opportunity to show Himself faithful to provide and capable of sustaining us on this journey. If our lives were filled with pleasantries and comforts, what need would we have for prayer? What need for faith? And what opportunity would there be for us to see God provide in marvelous ways?
The question we must each answer for ourselves is this: Why do we serve God? This is not a question to be taken lightly or answered casually but to be prayerfully contemplated.
Allow me please, dear Reader, to tell you a short story. A very long time ago there was a man named Job. Job was greatly blessed in his family, in his possessions–truly his life was characterized by tremendous blessing. One day, Satan stood before God and asks a simple question: “Does Job serve God for no reason?” (Job 1:9). The devil suggests that Job serves God because God blesses him. He says,
“Have you not put a hedge around him [Job] and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:10-11)
As the story develops, God allows Satan a measure of room to afflict Job. His children die, his livestock are stolen, his servants killed, and his body covered head to toe with boils. And how does Job respond?
“And he [Job] said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:21-22)
Ponder for a moment Satan’s question and replace Job’s name with your own: Does [your name] serve God for no reason? Do we serve God simply for His blessings? What if God were to withhold blessing and allow us to have an experience similar to Job? How would we respond?…
God delights to hear our prayers, and he urges us to cast all of our care upon Him (I Peter 5:7). He knows the things that we have need of before we even ask (Matt. 6:8). He promises “…if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (I John 5:14-15). However, there is a fact of life with which we must come to terms: God’s ultimate purpose for us in life is not our comfort, but to transform us into the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). As a potter with the clay, perhaps He chooses to mold us, one hand within and one without applying slightly more pressure to the inside, or as a refiner of metal, He may choose to place us in the fire in order that the dross and impurities of our lives may be burned out until He can see His very reflection. Either case is uncomfortable, but both cases are for our good and ultimately for His glory. May we learn to see through the eyes of faith—sight that will allow us a proper view of the infinite God Who stoops to hear the prayers of infinitesimal men and women. May we understand that while in the world, trials and tribulations are not only possibilities, they are guaranteed (John 16:33). During the storms of life, sometimes God joins us in the boat and other times He calls us out onto the water to stand by faith on the turbulent waves that are already beneath His feet. In either case, He is with us, and His promise is to “never leave us nor forsake us” (Heb. 13:5). May these thoughts encourage and challenge your heart as they have mine.