We often wonder when we encounter hardships, trials, and difficulties in life why we must endure them. When they seem to never end, we wonder still “why won’t God just take away my problem?”
I remember one semester at college where I was dealing with some family issues, financial issues, and just plain old stress. I remember just asking God, “why won’t you take this away? Can’t you just fix this?” I even went to a place called the Ramona Prayer Tower. It was this tower on campus that was four or five stories high, and stood above everything else on campus. I just went up there and let it out. I mean I was shouting at God “Can you hear me now?” I pleaded with God that day for relief.
The truth is, I didn’t get immediate relief, but with that particular instance as well as many others I gained a lot of clarity on why God doesn’t just take away our problem sometimes. Let’s look at a number of different factors here. Some of this will be hard truths and difficult to swallow, but my hope and prayer is that it encourages you in the midst of it all. That it provides a sliver of light in the darkness.
Our Good And The Reason We Face Difficulties
We often want to quote Romans 8:28 saying that God is working all things for good, but the truth is we often think of our good as being a soft and comfortable life.
If God is working out all things for our good, how then is sickness, or financial hardship, or a difficult boss at work, or any number of difficulties we face in this life contributing to that?
What God is really doing through these difficulties is attempting to conform us more to the image of Christ. In all of our hardships and difficulties God is molding and shaping our lives and our character to be more like Christ who dwells in us. Clay is molded, beaten, shaped, and then placed in the fire so as to create an object of beauty and usefulness.
Adversity shapes our character. We learn best from difficulties. How then would we learn patience if we were not put in a situation that required it? How then could we experience healing if we were never sick? Paul encourages the Corinthians and us with this:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
And even if healing or relief never come, we have to understand we live in a fractured world. We see through a mirror darkly, knowing only in part what heaven holds.
Just because the Lord “can” answer a prayer request, meet a need, or change a situation, doesn’t necessarily mean He will. God is not our sugar daddy or magic genie who has to answer our every wish and command when and how we see fit. Did your parent give you everything you wanted right when you wanted it?
Sometimes suffering, hardship, and lack in our lives are for our good, to make us rely on the Father more, and to conform us more to the image of Christ.
Take for example Jesus. He asked the Father to let the cup pass from Him, but yet He still endured the beating and the cross. Or what about Paul? He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, and left for dead numerous times.
Following Christ also means picking up our cross and following Him. If we pick up our cross, we must be willing to be crucified on it through hardship and difficulty. The flesh must die that Christ might live. The lesson then comes through our attitude.
Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates Of The Caribbean said this, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”
Listen to what James says about it,
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
James urges us to create an attitude of joy in the midst of trials because we know that ultimately God is bringing us to that perfect result of lacking nothing, whether in this life or the next. Our hardships are for our good as we already saw.
Jesus told us straight up, in this life you will have tribulations, but see here again how Paul instructs us concerning those trials.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
Paul, just like James, says “we exult in our tribulations.” He created an attitude of joy and exultation that he faced the trails because he knew what God was doing through them.
When we focus on the problem for the problems sake, we will be destroyed mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; but when we focus on the problem for God’s sake, we will be renewed by Christ’s Spirit that dwells within us. This then is how we can rejoice when we face trials of many kinds.
In God’s Favorite Place On Earth, Frank Viola discussed being prepared to meet a God of insufficiency. Jesus came four days after Lazarus died. Four days! But they kept waiting and watching for Him to come. When it seemed too late, when it seemed hopeless, and after death had already taken hold, that is when Christ showed up.
Don’t focus on the problem, focus on God because he is your sufficiency, when there is insufficiency.
God’s Grace Is Sufficient
Finally brothers and sisters I leave you with this. During Paul’s ministry he faced what he called a messenger of Satan, or what we more commonly refer to as his thorn in the flesh. He pleaded with God three times to take it away and He never did, but he did say this:
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.
And look at Paul’s response to the Lord.
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 12:9
I know it sucks when we face trials and difficulties, sickness and distress, but remember this friends: each of the trials we face are conforming us more to the image of Christ that we might be a pure bride, a house of living stones to give Christ an eternal dwelling place. Stones are shaped and honed by hammers and chisels, not by feathers and pillows.
When we face trials of many kinds let us rejoice, and when we can no longer rejoice, when our strength is gone, and sorrow fills our soul, let us lean in to Him. For His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is perfected in our weakness.
What is the most difficult part for you when enduring difficulties? Share in a comment below.