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Over 40 years ago I experienced a life-crisis through a failed marriage which I did everything in my power to save. This was the most painful time I had ever experienced in my life. Feelings of helplessness brought me to my knees before the Lord, and I rededicated my heart to Him one night in my home. Amazingly, I awoke the next morning feeling light as a feather! The whole world seemed fresh and new, even though my troubles had in no way been dissolved.
The only change was in me. In fact, I experienced the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that I had never known before. It was then that I realized how God could work all things, even heart-breaking experiences for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).
Before I go any further, let me say that I do not enjoy difficulties and hard times any more than anyone else. Sometimes I can take them in stride, other times I literally despise them. I do not always know when it is appropriate to accept situations and when they should be challenged and resisted. For this reason I have found that the only safe thing to do is to trust in the Lord with all my heart, to lean not on my own understanding, to acknowledge Him in all my ways, knowing He will direct my path. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
However, the Word of the Lord is clear. There are times in which our suffering is the will of God. Those who do not believe that examples of Old Covenant believers like Joseph, David, Daniel and Job apply to us today cannot deny the lessons of Jesus, Peter and Paul in the New Covenant. All of them portrayed the inescapable fact that some times of suffering in the life of the child of God are His will for us, and are even of great value.
In an earlier podcast, I spoke of prayer, thanksgiving, and rejoicing as being activities that reflect the will of God for the believer. While we can maintain a general attitude of rejoicing, there is a time, however, to weep with those who weep, and morn with those who morn. (Romans 12:15). There is also a time when a state of distress or heaviness becomes necessary. (1 Peter 1:6).
There is even a time to rise up in righteous anger against situations that oppose the advance of the righteous Kingdom of God. Jesus surrendered to the plans of evil men, in order to fulfill the will of God. But He always challenged their oppressive tendencies, and championed the needs of those sick and oppressed of the devil and his workers.
Today I would like to challenge certain beliefs that are prevalent today in many Christian circles. We seem to be divided into two camps. One group seems to be saying that everything that happens, every sickness, every disease, every crime, every war, every rape and murder is the will of God, for He is sovereign. They say that we are to praise Him FOR everything that happens, whether good or bad. We do know that God has brought good out of some horrible circumstances, but nowhere are we taught in Scripture to draw this fatalistic conclusion. In fact, it is plain that many tragedies happen because people reject the good will of God for their lives.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that suffering is never in the will of God for any believer. They believe that perfect health, personal comfort, and an abundance of material possessions is always God’s perfect will for those of us who love Him. To this point I ask, “Is God not able to perform His will?” The reason often given for why so few obtain this state of perfect physical bliss is that we simply don’t believe like we should. Again, that puts God in a state of helplessness, as if even He cannot overcome our evident lack of faith.
God is our Heavenly Father. As a father myself I will always have ideals for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I want what is best for them. Of course I want them to be happy, healthy and prosperous, but more than that, I desire for them to know Christ and to reflect His character. When my children were in my home and under my care, I had to sometimes tell them “no” for their own good. I do not like saying no. Sometimes I had to withhold from them things that were not wrong or hurtful, simply to teach them obedience. Other times I even had to use forceful measures to teach them, not because I enjoyed it but because they needed it. I am sad to say that my distaste for discipline was behind some of my failures as a father and they ultimately suffered because of it.
The Kingdom of God is a picture of an ideal world pressing against a corrupt and sin-ridden world. We must never let God’s ideal of “Shalom” — peace, wholeness, well-being, safety, and His ideals of justice, holiness, and love fade in our minds. His ideals press us forward toward the goal of becoming the express image of Jesus Himself. No amount of suffering or sacrifice can compare to that marvelous end! When necessary, He will use unpleasant circumstances, that are even unpleasant to Him, in order to bring forth His ideals in us.
We must learn to be passive towards the dealings of God our Father, and at the same time active and aggressive in our resistance to sin and to the pressures of the culture and values of fallen humanity.
1 Peter 4:19:
“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
It is not the time to choose up sides on this issue. It is the time to re-evaluate our assumptions and listen to the whole counsel of God. You may find several flaws in the considerations I have put forth here. I only ask you to consider them, and seek the Lord for yourself in every situation in order to determine His will for you. His will and intention for you is more wonderful, more glorious, more joyous than anything you could ever imagine for yourself!