Yesterday, we began discussing a popular objection in the minds of many skeptics. At the heart of this objection is the idea that IF God really loves us, bad things should never happen. This view is based upon some assumptions…
The first is that love should prevent bad things from occurring. But we saw that bad things are actually helpful in building our character – if we will allow them to be. If we turn to God, instead of against Him, He will assist us to become what He desires us to be. This leads us to the skeptic’s second assumption…
2) Suffering and hardship have no purpose. Love should prevent all meaningless things from happening to us.
This assumption is based upon the thinking that hardship has no purpose in our lives. But nothing could be further from the truth.
As we turn to the Bible, we see something amazing. Suffering, trial, and hardship… can all bring a tremendous benefit to our lives. We read: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance… so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (from James 1:2-4; see also Romans 5:3-5) The Bible does not promote the idea that suffering is worthless – just the opposite. In fact, It actually declares that hardship is essential to our growth. Is it pleasant? No. Is it desirable? No. But is it meaningless? Absolutely not.
But why would this be the case? How can something that we obviously perceive to be “bad,” bring such “good” into our lives?
James’ answer is that “the testing of (our) faith develops perseverance.” The ability to “stick with” something when giving up would be a whole lot easier. Perseverance is essential to our character. Strength of character is developed through time and testing. And testing only comes through resistance and hardship. Just as our physical muscles are strengthened only through resistance – so the building of our character needs the resistance of hardship. Strong character is built, not given.
Suffering and hardship also have a much more practical purpose. Tough times give us a connection point to other people. If we never go through difficult times, we would never be able to connect with, and help, others in need. If we have never hurt, we cannot empathize with the hurting. And in a world that is often defined by hardship and hurt… this ability to connect is invaluable.
Finally, because God is committed to our growth and maturity – He is committed to bringing us through whatever is needed for that growth. Certainly, He desires to bless us beyond measure. But He also desires to deepen our relationship with Him. Nothing draws us closer to Him than facing a difficult time, issue, or situation.
Much like the skeptic, there is a fallacy that permeates many Christians’ thinking… That God should prevent any trouble or difficulty from happening in our lives. But the truth is, God never promises to keep us out of hardship. What He does promise is that He will be with us, and see us through those tough times: “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.” (Psalm 34:19)
There is no other way to know the faithfulness of God without applying our faith in Him. Tough times bring us to that point where our faith meets His faithfulness – and we truly experience the wonder of God’s infinite and abundant care for us.
Prayer focus: God, when I face difficult times… draw my heart to a relentless trust in You.