How many of you know someone who isn’t presently suffering, or undergoing trials, or facing adversity in some way or another? Or who has never suffered any of these things? How about those who are Christians? Do they seem to be faring better than others in your circle of family and friends?
I think we would all agree that suffering is a part of living in this sinful and fallen world. None of us is exempt. Not even Christians. Truth be told, though, I used to secretly believe that God would protect me from harm or loss if I were faithfully walking with Him. But the Bible is full of examples of suffering in the lives of those deemed righteous by God, and so it has been for Christians as well. As a result of my own suffering, I began to wrestle with thoughts about things such as….
- What security do we as Christians have in this life?
- If anything can happen to us, just as anything can happen to those who don’t know God, what is the point of praying for protection… or anything for that matter?
- And why, if He is all-powerful, does He sometimes choose to intervene in our circumstances and not at other times?
- Or for some and not for others?
- Most importantly, if we are living in the so-called Age of Grace, why does it sometimes feel like we’re being punished, in spite of clinging so tenaciously to Him?
I asked these questions of God a thousand times. Even so, I was not prepared for the answer when it finally came. It went something (exactly) like this:
Me: “Why Lord, when I’ve been so faithful to You?”
God: “Do you want to be blessed when you are walking well with me? When you are abiding in me? Obeying me?”
Me: “Yes, Lord!!”
God: “Then what shall I do when you are not?”
God: “You must choose. You cannot live under both Grace and Law.”
Have you ever found yourself speechless before God? It is both a frightening and comforting position in which to find yourself. Frightening, when we realize just how small we truly are. But so comforting to know that He is wise and powerful, and so very aware of us in our suffering and daily lives.
Living Under the Law of Moses
In Deuteronomy 27, Moses is speaking to the people of Israel and he charges them to obey God in all His commandments upon entering the Promised Land. In chapter 28 he tells them that, if they obey God, they will be blessed abundantly! But if they do not obey God, they will be cursed. And not just a little. The blessings of obedience were greatly overshadowed by the enormity of the curses for disobedience.
Deuteronomy 28 in a nutshell:
Obedience –> Blessing
Disobedience –> Cursing
Harsh, but simple right? Trouble is, it’s impossible to walk in blessing all the time when even the slightest departure from the Law results in condemnation.
Living In the Age of Grace
But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord, because He has set us free from the weight of the Law! Romans 8:1-4 tells us:
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
No more are we blessed only when we are good, and cursed when we are not! Do believers suffer? Yes, but our comfort is in knowing that our suffering is never wasted. This cannot be said of those who don’t know Christ, because they are spiritually dead. The old adage, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is their mantra. Suffering may make them emotionally, mentally, and physically stronger to endure this life; but these things are temporal and will end at the grave.
Consider this: Christians suffer, God allows it. The wicked prosper, God allows it. Often, what we see as blessing and cursing is far from the truth of each. Prosperity does not equal Blessing. And Suffering does not equal Cursing. As hard as it is to hear, suffering and adversity are often God’s chosen instruments to bring about spiritual prosperity and blessing in the life of a believer. Endured well, these result in a more intimate walk with Christ, deeper faith in Him, spiritual growth, joy, and eternal reward.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~Romans 5:3
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”!