Can we trust God even if people fail us, circumstances overwhelm us, or life mistreats us? Are we guilty of accepting only the good from God’s hand and blaming him for the bad?
MINDFUL MONDAY SERIES
These are difficult questions to ponder on a Mindful Monday, dear friends, but ones that come up often as we struggle to make sense of our faith journeys.
I have personally struggled with these very questions throughout much of 2018, and while I do not claim to know the answers or to have figured it all out myself, God has been teaching me some valuable lessons. I took the last six weeks to ponder in quiet solitude. And upon reflection, I came up with 5 tough lessons that 2018 taught me. Today is week one of the series: 5 TOUGH LIFE LESSONS FROM 2018 THAT WILL MAKE 2019 BETTER.
We start with TOUGH LESSON # 1: TRUST GOD EVEN IF…
HOW CAN A GOOD GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
I start with this life lesson because it is not only the most difficult to wrap our minds around…it is also the one that keeps many of us from having a relationship with God.
We just cannot fathom why a good God would allow suffering, pain, illness, natural disasters, death, poverty, and violence. We wonder why God would not only permit bad things to happen in our own lives but also in the lives of children, the innocent, the elderly, the feeble and the frail.
When I talk to people who say they do not believe in God or used to and do not anymore, it almost always comes down to this: Something awful has happened to them or someone they love and they cannot understand why God allowed it to happen so they find it difficult to believe or trust him.
I can understand this line of reasoning. I really can. It is normal and natural. We do it with people in our lives all the time. It is hard to trust someone who has hurt or mistreated you. I get it.
And while I have studied apologetics (the defense of Christianity), written about my beliefs, and even taught some workshops on this topic, I am not going to use this post to do that. I am not going to defend Christianity or God. Rather, I am going to share my experience of how I learned to trust God even when I could not make sense of things, even when I wondered where he was, and even when I was dealing with with so much pain and doubt.
So if you are struggling with believing and trusting God, it is okay. This is still a safe place for you. If something has happened in your life (whether it was yesterday or thirty years ago) that has caused you to doubt God’s goodness and love, please keep reading.
JOB: A CASE STUDY FOR THE “EVEN IF…”
I don’t know what your “even if” is. The death of a loved one, a financial collapse, a crippling disease or mental illness, a betrayal, or a violent attack …maybe it has already happened to you or maybe you worry about it happening in the future, but we all have our personal worst case scenarios.
When I think of worse case scenarios, I think of Job from the Bible. Scholars believe the book of Job to be the oldest book in the Bible. The Bare Bones Bible Handbook (written by Jim George) gives a brief synopsis of Job’s story:
Jobis a wealthy and upright man who fears God…through the fires of affliction–which include the loss of his family, his wealth, and his health– a series of debates takesplace with his friends over the subject of suffering. Then in a discussion with God, Job is brought to the end of questioning God’s actions in his life and trying to justify himself.
The book of Job is a fascinating story of riches-to-rags-to-riches. It provides insights into the problem of suffering, the certainty of divine sovereignty, and activities of Satan, and a faith that endures.The Bare Bones Bible Handbook (p.87-89)
Jobwas tested, and his faith endured because it was built on the firm foundation of God.”
THOUGH YOU SLAY ME
While I would love to take you through a whole study of Job and his life, I just want to focus on one verse that happens in about the middle of his story where he has lost absolutely everything, is suffering and wasting away physically, and arguing with his friends about why God has done this to him.
I can relate to Job on many levels: he questions and argues with God, he misapplies theology and his understanding who God is, and he gets extremely frustrated and annoyed with his friends. But the one thing he NEVER does, despite everything that happens to him, everything that is taken from him, and everything people say about him…he never loses his faith. He is the epitome of someone who trusts God even if. As he honestly shares in Job 13:15: EVEN IF God takes my life (which at this point was the only thing he had left), YET I will trust him.
Wow. There are no words to accurately describe that kind of trust and faith.
HOW TO KEEP FROM LOSING TRUST IN GOD
I am currently doing a Bible study on Job by Lisa Harper (Job: A Story of Unlikely Joy) to learn more about how I can continue to trust God even in the midst of doubt, despair, and discouragement, but I think God has already taught me so much.
A lot of “even if’s” have happened in my life. Some I expected, but most blindsided me. Most of 2018 took me by surprise, knocked me off my feet, and shook my faith. Further still, unbelievably tragic (far worse than my own) “even if’s” took place in the lives of those I love. These situations left me helpless and sometimes hopeless.
But through it all, I decided to trust God.
By willfully choosing to look up from the pit. By taking each excruciating step by faith. By burying myself deep in his word and claiming his promises. By holding on for dear life when the storm threatened to overwhelm me.
WHY I DECIDED TO TRUST GOD
When I look back on those trying times, when I sit and ponder the past pain, and when I reflect on my wandering in the wasteland, now I can see God’s hand in it all. When I felt abandoned, he was there. When I poured out my heart, he saw every tear. When I felt there was no way out, he was making a way in the wilderness. God used my suffering to bring me to the place where I am today and to make me the person I am today.
Does this sound too simple? Yes and no. Suffering is real, and I do not want to minimize it in any way. But faith is not as complicated as we make it out to be either. Trusting God does not mean I understand everything he does and why he does it. Nor does it mean everything will work out the way it should on this side of eternity. It does mean that I can trust even if because I know he will use it for my good and his glory.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”Romans 8:18 (ESV)
I will close with the song “Though You Slay Me” by Shane & Shane which includes a short message by John Piper. Please take the time to listen and consider trusting God even if on