Last week, I was waiting for someone to die. It sounds horrible, I know, but it’s true. While I kept on a happy face entertaining and teaching my students each day, while I came home and cared for and loved my children, while cleaned the clutter around the house, someone I love was lying in ICU with numbered breaths. Each day, time was spent with him, but it was like we were caught in the middle between life and death. I stood and looked back over all the fond memories and smiled, but I also looked ahead, wondering what life would be like with an empty chair at Sunday dinner. Decisions couldn’t be made, plans couldn’t be arranged, life couldn’t move on, until he died. And as much as I wanted life to move on, I can’t imagine him gone, so I tried to find satisfaction in this in-between spot. I tried to find blessings.
It was easy to sit there and ask why. Why was God allowing him to suffer? Why couldn’t he just go on? Why was God requiring the family to make difficult decisions? Why now? Why not when we can be more prepared? When we feel like he was ready?
So many times we go through difficult situations and ask why? Why me? Why them? Why did God chose this? How could He be a loving God and still allow this?
It’s easy to get lost in our earthly sorrow, in our present sadness, and miss the forest for the trees. We are like children in that sense. My little girl will pitch a fit over one toy I refuse to buy her, forgetting about the room full of toys at home. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have – on what we are losing – and forget to focus on all we do have. Sure, it doesn’t mean my little girl doesn’t still want that toy, but she has lots of toys to play with instead.
Sometimes God takes our toys. Not to downplay death. It can be tremendous, but God has an entirely different focus than we do. Much like I do with Isla. I know that toy will only serve a purpose for a short time and will not be worth the expense. I know she can learn valuable lessons from not getting everything she wants. I know, as a parent, sometimes you just have to say no. I am trying to grow Isla into a loving, responsible, Christ-like adult, and it ain’t easy!
I am sure to some extent, God has the same attitude. It can’t be easy on Him, watching us suffer, but He sees the ultimate goal, and He sees the best path to get us there. Sure, some of us may go kicking and screaming, and some of us may take detours along the way – certain we know better – but ultimately you have to decide – Does God know best? Can I trust Him? Or do I really think He is not paying attention or does not have my best interest in mind?
Deciding definitely the answers to those questions can define our relationship with Christ, much like it would define a relationship with a parent. If Isla totally trusts me to do the best for her (all those who know her are laughing right now…), then she might not like what I have to say, but she accepts and respects it, but if she doesn’t trust what I have to say, then she will try to figure out what she thinks is best. She will determine her own way because she doesn’t believe I am looking out for her best interest.
That is how we treat God many times. I know it can be hard to imagine what good could come out of death and hard situations, but as I said last week, God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are higher than ours. And either we trust that or we don’t.
Now, this month I am talking about blessings and we worked to define what a blessing is last week, but in order to move forward and really understand God and his blessings, we have to trust Him. We have to trust that He loves us. If we don’t, we will fall into the trap that blessings can only be positive here on earth, that we cannot be blessed by negative circumstances. And then we miss a huge blessing…
And think of what a huge blessing it would be to learn to totally and fully trust God. You don’t have to worry about circumstances or finances or any of the worldly distractions. You just listen to God and follow his direction with Spirit led faith, trusting that one bad situation will open a fountain of blessings.
In my Bible study class, the question surfaced as to whether God allows us to go through tough situations or does He put us through these situations? Now, to some degree I think it is just a matter of semantics and it basically means the same thing, but regardless, I started thinking…
Many times we want to say that God allows these things, but we are not comfortable saying He actually caused them… He actually orchestrated them. It is hard to comprehend how a loving God would intentionally cause us pain. So, the easy answer is to say that he just allows it. But, I think we are wrong.
I began thinking of situations in the Bible where God put people through difficult situations. I thought about when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. God caused all of that, and even though God did not require Abraham to go through with it, it still had to be difficult for Abraham. I thought about Lazarus and how Jesus intentionally waited 3 days longer before He left. As painful as it may have been, He wanted Lazarus to die. Jesus explained that He would be glorified through Lazarus’s death.
And then we can’t have this conversations without making this point. God put Jesus on the cross. He designed the plan. He knew that Jesus would suffer while on earth, in so many different ways. He knew the cross would be excruciatingly painful, physically, mentally, and spiritually. But He also knew that He would be glorified through it and we would be granted an eternal relationship with the trinity because of it. God knew it was worth the cost. He knew the blessings would overshadow the sacrifice (and there is so much more I could say here, but we will save that for another conversation).
So, yes God does intentionally put us through difficult times, probably like my children would say the same thing. Cleaning your room is pretty difficult to some children. But I see the bigger picture for them and God sees so much more for us. And when we think about these tough times, it is important to go to scripture for comfort. Look at what Romans 2 tells us. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
We should rejoice in our sufferings (no matter if it was intentional or just allowed) because suffering grows us. It gives us endurance for the work of Christ. It gives us character so that we may witness to others. And it gives us hope of better things to come. But look at that last verse. Why does all this happen? Why do we suffer? Because God has poured His love into our hearts. (Reminds you of when your mom used to say, “I do this because I love you,” doesn’t it?!?)
We suffer because God loves us. We suffer because He understands we can gain blessings from that suffering. Now, we have to decide – Do I trust God in that? Do I trust Him to bless me? The way He sees best to bless me?
Again, the answers to those questions will truly decide if we will receive the blessings God intended.