There is one challenge that I think that all true believers in Christ face. We become disappointed with God. How? The painful and discouraging realities of our lives seem to be miles away from His promises. For example, our Lord promises:
· “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
However, rest seems to be almost unattainable. Therefore, we are tempted to conclude that His rest is a fiction and His promises are just wishful thinking, a vain human attempt to find peace in an un-peaceful world. Consequently, many abandon the Bible and its promises of greener pastures. They lament:
- I had prayed that my mother would be healed, but she died an excruciating death.
- I prayed that God would free me from same-sex attraction, but He didn't.
- I asked God to take away my loneliness and isolation, but nothing happened.
However, the Psalmists also had this problem. They saw the wicked prospering, while the righteous suffering, and this tormented them:
- “For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked...Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning...When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—” (Psalms 73:3, 13-14, 16)
This is also painful for us. We find that we are languishing instead of rejoicing. We try to understand this, but understanding eludes us, as it had the Psalmists.
However, I have found that my tears can bring the message of Scripture into greater clarity. It prepares us by teaching that suffering is inevitable:
- “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
If we want to be like Jesus, we also must be like Him in His suffering:
- Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (II Corinthians 4:10-11)
To make his point about the need and inevitability of suffering, Paul used the word "always" twice.
Even Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering:
- In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8)
If Jesus had to learn through suffering, so must we!
But doesn't this contradict God's many promises that if we ask, we shall have?
- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
However, we often overlook three conditions. Our asking has to be according to God's will. Many verses attest to this fact:
- You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
Our motives must be God-centered:
- “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Receiving from God is a matter of putting Him before all else.
Also, our un-confessed sins might be temporarily blocking us from receiving. Peter provides one example of this:
- Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)
Whenever we refuse to confess our sins, we tell God, "I want to handle this matter on my own." This He allows. When we turn away from God, He turns away from us. Consequently, we must examine ourselves:
- For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (I Corinthians 11:31)
Suffering is a great tool. It forces us to dig into our filth.
Lastly, patience is necessary:
- And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12)
However, in the midst of my suffering, I was convinced that I had confessed my sins, asked according to His will, and had waited patiently. I, therefore concluded that God had failed me. However, we are called to endure:
- My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10-11)
We often protest: "How can such treatment be regarded as 'very compassionate and merciful'?" We need to see the big picture, the picture Jesus saw on the Cross, which enabled Him to endure the Cross.
- Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame...(Hebrews 12:1-2)
Job needed to look heavenward. However, his charges against God precluded this. It is hard to trust in God as we accuse Him of wrongdoing.
However, mercifully, God accused Job of ignorance. He asked Job a series of questions, none of which could Job answer. He got God's intended message. If he was so ignorant that he could not answer basic questions about creation, how could he presume to bring charges against the Creator! Job repented.
We too presume to know far more than we actually do. We suppose that God has not been faithful and that there couldn't possibly be a good reason for our disappointment.
The Psalmist couldn't find any good reason for the thriving of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. However, his God gave him a revelation of the big picture, and this made the difference:
- I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. (Psalms 73:22-24)
We too think too much of our own understanding. We need to be humbled. Paul also thought too much of himself. If he was to be of use to the Lord, he too would have to be humbled:
- For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. (II Corinthians 1:8-9)
May we too learn this necessary lesson.