Friday, April 24, 2015

When Life Gets Too Hard

What do you tell yourself when life gets hard, too hard? Some evil has landed in your lap, and you hurt. What do you say then? This is when Gospel truths become really practical. Truths like Immanuel, God with us. You do not face these hard times alone. God is with you and has promised never to abandon you. His presence is a sure thing. And with that presence comes His compassion. You have a Savior who knows - by experience! - that life can be very hard. He understands and is very sympathetic toward you in your plight. That sense of Immanuel is so important in times like these. There is great promise in holding these Gospel truths when life gets hard.

Except that it isn't enough.

You need more than just knowing God is near. And I fear that there are too many Christians who have only this. Knowing that God is near isn't nearly enough so that you can deal well with the hard parts of life. That alone doesn't tell you what to do when evil strikes. And you need to do something.

What you need to do is tied to what you need to know. Why did evil land in your lap? Isn't that one of the big questions: 'Why is this happening to me?' You can have an answer to that question, not a complete answer, but one that is good enough so that you can deal with the evil and live well.

And the answer to that question is tied to the answer to this one. Who sends the evil? Who is it that causes me to hurt in the way that I do? And here's the answer: God. It's God who sends the evil. He's the one who makes us hurt. I realize that there are many who have a very hard time with that idea. God sending evil? But I find it a very comforting one. It gives me hope.

So, why do I think it is God who sends us the evil that we experience? I think that because it's in the Bible. Here's a little question and answer on the topic.

Who creates evil?

I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:6-7
The word 'calamity' is literally 'evil'. Either way, the bad stuff that happens is created by the Lord.

Who was the one who sent evil to Job?

And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him.  Job 42:11
Satan had a role to play but only as a tool in God's hand, a means to bring about the evil.

Whose plan was it for Jesus to suffer on the Cross?

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:23
And if this verse isn't clear enough that the Cross was God's idea try John 3.16.
Who was it that caused the psalmist all those severe troubles?

The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Psalms 118:18

When you suffer some evil you can know where it's coming from. Whatever the immediate source, ultimately it comes from God. He is the one who sends it your way.

And there is a reason why God sends you the evil that He does. The first part of Hebrews 12 explains the suffering, the evil, that the recipients of this letter were dealing with. It was from God as His training. The last verse of this section explains the goal.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

God's intention in sending you evil is your good. He wants you to enjoy things like 'the peaceful fruit of righteousness'. Let's go back and consider Job again. After all his suffering, this is what he said to God.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; Job 42:5

The intended good of Job's suffering was coming to know his God better with all the joys associated with that. 

Now, none of this means that you are supposed to like the evil that comes your way. Jesus didn't. Listen in on His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. But seeing evil in this way helps you to understand, to some extent, what is going on. Our loving Father is doing something that will result in your good. The evil is an expression of His love for His children. Isn't there a better, less painful way for Him to do this? Well, if there were, wouldn't He do it that way?

Seeing life, including the hard parts, (especially the hard parts!) in this way gives hope. The evil coming at me hurts, but there is a purpose for the pain, a good purpose. My Father's purpose. 

Now, knowing these things, you can act. You can do something. And what you do is work with God in His plan to do you good by that evil. And at the heart of that is this: trust. 'Father, I trust You as You send this evil for my good.' You may have to say that with loud cries and tears, like Jesus did (Hebrews 5.7). Suffering evil isn't fun. But it is one of God's ways of making you into a mature disciple of Jesus, someone who is useful to Him. And that, it seems to me, is worth the pain.