God’s Purpose And Suffering
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Does God allow everything that happens in your life? And, if so, does He really have a purpose behind each event, something unique which, perhaps, you cannot see, yet conforms to His plan? Long ago, Jeremiah wrote those words which declare God’s game plan for our lives. He recorded the message from the Almighty, saying, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This appeals to us. Who doesn’t want to prosper and to sustain no harm? Bruce Wilkinson wrote a best-seller based on an entry in the book of Chronicles that goes, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
But in promises such as these, we often see what we want to envision, not focusing on how God brings all of this about. Life is far less than always exciting with good things always happening. Babies are born who fight for life. We get laid off when we think we will be with that company until retirement. Our plans are put on hold when the doctor says, “I think you should know that you are faced with an uphill battle with cancer,” or when your neighbors become “pains in the neck.”
Then your heart cries out, “Hey, God, I thought you said everything would be great if I just followed your Son!”
While we live in an evil world, evil does not triumph because it is greater than God, so God uses the abrasive events and people which annoy us to soften us, to cause us to become more compassionate and tender, to become more like His Son who suffered and bore our grief. When difficulties come, it isn’t a reflection of God’s weakness, His inability to control your life, or His disinterest.
He’s there in times of suffering, in times of pain, in times of grief. So what do you do, when you don’t understand? Before I respond to that, ask yourself, “Did God ever promise that I would understand? And do I really need to understand provided He does?” “Without murmer, uncomplaining,/ In his hand,/ Leave whatever things thou canst not/ Understand,” wrote K. R. Hagenbach a generation go.
The late A. W. Tozer was a self-educated scholar and pastor, sometimes described as a mystic. He was a prophet who towered above his contemporaries when it came to knowing God and understanding His Word. In his book The Divine Conquest he wrote this: “To will the will of God is to do more than give unprotesting consent to it; it is rather to choose God’s will with positive determination. As the work of God advances, the Christian finds himself free to choose whatever he will and he gladly chooses the will of God as his highest conceivable good. Such a man has found life’s highest goal. He has been placed beyond the little disappointments that plague the rest of men.”
God’s purpose for your life also includes times of walking by faith. Does that mean you blindly stumble forward hoping that things will be OK in the end? No, because faith is living and acting in the belief that God is good and He will honor His word no matter how you feel.
That’s the only way Paul could say, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you!” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing even when I don’t.
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 5.