“Why is this happening to me?” I hear this or a similar phrase dozens of times each day in my ministry as a hospital Chaplain. It might be illness or loss of health or relationship. The theme is common to man. In fact the Apostle Paul said, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Temptations and trials are interchangeable here. Yes, we all have trials and it is pretty much constant as I think King David’s wonderful Psalm 23 reminds us. “Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and staff comfort me.” It is our walk until we are home free or in fear. I chose to be home free in the valley. I see the valley as a place full of flowers blooming and rivers flowing, because God is in it with me. He says fear not for He is comforting and protecting you. As well, if you chose to trust in God through His Son Jesus Christ, death is a shadow, it can’t hurt you. This means heaven is your home. Heaven is free from adversity and trials, but filled with peace and prosperity. Again it is a choice.
OK back to blame. “God can’t be good if I had my leg cut off and my wife has cancer.” I am not sure that one follows the other as commonly as I hear this. Why can’t the world just be full of struggle and not good? God made it good, but human kind has screwed it up, big time. We have sinned and not been obedient. We have thrown God out of our society and His word is anathema to a major part of our society. Atheism is a belief, a strong one. It believes not in God, but in self to overcome and succeed in the world. Good luck with that. It does not believe in eternal life, but in our circumstance or state of affairs now. It is a temporal and pessimistic view of life. It says that someone has to be to blame for this rotten mess. And it also takes credit if good stuff happens too. But what of the solution? Blame God! OK, I think we can blame Him, as it were, for giving us free will. Therein lies the problem, we can chose to follow Him or be disobedient and follow ourselves. The world that is fast devolving into the chaos from which it came is doing so because of us.
Stuff happens, pain, loss, gain, light and dark. “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). This Christmastide we read or hear many Scripture verses, whether we believe them or not. “Bah Humbug.”
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you”
as people rejoice at the harvest (Isaiah 9:2-3).
However, many do not trust in the light but chose to walk in darkness. “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). “Light” is written over 300 times in Scripture and always pointing to God. Do you walk in light or darkness, there is no in between.
Life is hard and we will have unexplainable trials and pain. I do not know why. God knows, and it is to bring us to closer faith in Him and our recognition of our need for a Savior from trouble that He alone has overcome. That is the goal of adversity, to bring us closer to Him. You can cry out, but in the end suffering is not to defeat you, but to change you. It is not about punishment; that has already happened on the cross for all of us. Many will hear and few will heed.
So continue to enjoy the “holyday” parties and carols of Christmas without understanding. It is not about gift giving. But it is about receiving the ultimate gift in the only One who gave it all to all. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2Corinthians 9:15).