Do you have an aversion to pain and hardship? Most of us do. We want lives of calm and peace. If something bad happens, we clamor to get life “back to normal.” We want to right our capsized ship. Trials have a way of making us feel alone – like Jesus is asleep in our boat. We cry out to Him and wonder why He has allowed our life to take such an awful turn.
Because we hate suffering, most of us would do anything to be rid of it. But I have to wonder… maybe getting back to the status quo isn’t the objective that is best for us. Maybe, without trials, we would drift off into a peaceful, glassy sea not knowing that the lifeline that keeps us anchored to our Rock has been cut. Maybe it’s the tough times that keep us closest to Him. I have seen this played out time and time again in my life.
Let’s look to the Word to see God’s view of suffering.
A lesson from Exodus
You want to talk about pain and struggle? Take a look at God’s people at the beginning of the book of Exodus. His people are enslaved in Egypt and they are suffering. God hears their cries and sends Moses and his eloquent brother, Aaron, to get them out. God could’ve just zapped them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land – He is God after all. But He didn’t do that – He decides to do something shocking: He takes a bad situation and makes it worse. They were suffering and now they are in agony. (See Exodus chapter 5).
Why would God do that?
1) Because troubles are our tether to God.
Fast forward a bit and God’s miraculously rescued and blessed people are complaining. They are hungry and thirsty and they want to go BACK. Back to Egypt where they were enslaved and in agony. So quickly they forgot the state that they were in. I have to wonder if the reason God made things temporarily worse was because He needed them to be in a place where they would follow Him anywhere – even into the wilderness.
When we find ourselves adrift in a wave-torn sea, we can grab onto His lifeline and relax. It is our very troubles that keep us bound to Him and willing to follow Him anywhere. Any lifeguard will tell you that it is much easier to save a calm person than one who is flailing about in the water.
2) Because in difficult times, prayer is the only conversation that matters.
As a therapist, I encourage people to talk through things because words are the medium through which healing happens. But conversations with God are the only ones with eternal value. During struggles it is okay to cry out to God, get angry, and ask lots of questions. He is big enough to handle them. I am sure that the Israelites grumbled and complained to each other as they made bricks in the hot Egyptian sun. But it was when they cried out to God that something happened. He heard, He came and He rescued.
Bare your soul to God, He can see it anyway.
3) Because in trials, His word becomes the breath of life.
Desperation makes us desperate for Him. During a recent trial, God’s word was everything to me. People sent me Scripture and I would read it over and over again. I couldn’t get enough. Like someone straining their ears to hear the sound of a rescue boat, I needed God’s word. I ached for it. God used Moses to speak to His people. After the 10 miraculous plagues, when Moses said it was time to go, they went. Their struggle made them long for relief – relief that came from the mouth of God.
God’s word is alive and gives life to those who seek after it.
And because God’s word is so much more powerful than anything I could craft, I leave you with His wisdom – may it be a healing ointment to all of you who find yourself in the midst of a trial:
2 Corinthians 4:7-11
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.
1 Peter 1:6-9
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.