10 March 2022
In the past several months, the world has to deal with pain, suffering and death amidst the global viral pandemic, calamities in climate change, the agony, destruction and devastation in conflicts between nations and the many consequences that follow.
Christians are not exempted from these.
God has never promised that our lives, even as believers, will be safe, easy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous. On the contrary, we are certain to experience danger, hardship, turmoil, ill-health, and loss, the longer we live. And some beloved Christians have lived lives fraught with physical pain, poverty, isolation, betrayal and the final affliction – death accompanied by prolonged suffering, physical, emotional and the loss of basic abilities to cope with simple daily tasks.
“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16)
In such situations, even Christian workers meet with disappointment and frustrations. Things go wrong in ministry, people act perversely, one is let down by colleagues, opposition grows and the ministry becomes a disaster area. Christian couples who marry in the Lord and dedicate their home, wealth and families to the Lord may find nothing but trouble – health trouble, money trouble, trouble with relatives and in-laws and even trouble with their own children. What hurt Christian parents more than seeing the children they tried to raise for God give up their faith. Do not conclude that such things do not happen to faithful believers – they do. And when they do, the pain is increased by the feeling that God has turned against them and is actively destroying the hopes that He Himself once gave them.
There are of course experiences of joy and good gifts from the Lord God; however, there are no guarantees of any particular earthly good, but all good gifts may be gratefully enjoyed.
We cannot read God’s favour or disfavour by assessing how easy and trouble-free a person’s life is. However, we can read God’s favour or disfavour by noticing how a person responds to affliction. Each day will bring you “its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). Some difficulties are light and momentary; other hardships last for a season; some troubles recur and become chronic. Some woes steadily worsen,bringing pain and disability into our lives.
But whatever we must face changes in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise that we too will live; our faith can grow; we can learn to say with all our hearts: “We do not lose heart, though outer man is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction (in comparison with eternity) is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-17). We can say this with conviction because it is true, and it is backed up by God’s revelation in Scripture.
Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, is the same today as yesterday and we need to bring our own hurts to Him by faith for healing. As on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24 in Jesus’ encounter with the disciples after His resurrection), we need to tell Him our trouble as He invites us to do so each day and He would listen as One who shares our pain. We must put aside prayerless resentment, self-pity and open our hearts to Him and we will then know HIs help. We receive His healing by letting Him minister to us from Scripture, relating that which gives us pain to God’s purpose of saving love. This will mean regularly looking to the Lord’s human agents in ministry (assuring continual openness and teachability) as well as private Bible study.
We ask Him to assure us that as we go through what feels like fire and flood, He goes with us and will stay with us till the road ends – this prayer Jesus will always answer (Heb. 4:15-16).
When Jesus came into the world, ‘in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Those who repented and believe in Him find this life and light in Him. Nonetheless, we still live in a fallen world, a slave world, a dark world, a death world. There is the enemy within (the indwelling sin), the Enemy (the evil one) and the final enemy (death). Until the Lord Jesus comes again, we suffer in a world in which all dark, deadly things exist within an even deeper design and calling. The drama of evil occasions the revelation of good, the deeper drama of the gospel. God’s holy justice and sacrificial love unfold on the stage of darkness. He will bring all enemies to final justice. He has shown us wholly unmerited mercy and favour – when we were helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies of the cross, Jesus died for us.
In the meantime, HIs promises in Scripture still stand: “I am with you” (Psalm 23:4); the Lord will carry us through and never let us go: “I will never forsake you; be strong and courageous (Deut. 31:6,8; Josh. 1:5); His love endures forever, He is our refuge (meditate on the psalms) He is our loving good shepherd and He will not let us go (John 10)