“In this world you will have trouble…” – the words of Jesus from John 16.  Ever wonder why this trouble comes; especially to seemingly “good” people?  I’ve had people tell/ask me “If God is so loving, full of grace and all powerful, why does he allow bad things to happen?”  A good and fair question?  I think so.  It is can be very challenging at times to wrap our minds around the pain and suffering we see around the world – especially in our own families and neighborhoods – not to mention the painful challenges we go through ourselves.  I definitely don’t claim to understand it all myself and there has been plenty of times that I’ve shaken my head in wonder and bewilderment at things I’ve seen, heard and experienced.  I think at one time or another, we’ve all probably struggled with some of these questions. Here are a few points to ponder that I hope will help give a glimpse into God’s heart on this matter.

This may be difficult to grasp, but the truth is – our comfort, easy life, security, relaxation, social status, etc. is not God’s number one focus or priority for us.  All of that will someday pass away.  God is more concerned with what has eternal value – our relationship with Him.  Most of us can be pretty stubborn at times and it often takes a traumatic experience in our lives – reaching rock bottom, for us to see and realize our need for Him.  But, this is His number one focus or priority for us. God is not out to get us in terms of seeing how much pain he can inflict on His creation, but He is out to get us in terms of desiring a loving relationship with Him.  And He will do whatever it takes for us to see our need for Him – even allowing pain, suffering and troubles. In Revelation 16, John is describing the end of the world as we know it.  God has given His creation many, many opportunities to turn to Him for salvation, but many continue to refuse. Even as these incredibly destructive and painful events are occurring on the earth, God’s heart is still for His people and for repentance.  Horrible plagues and illnesses of epidemic proportions spread around the world “(only) on the people who had the mark of the beast (Satan) and worshiped its image.” Rev. 16:2  God’s anger against rebelliousness continued and in the ensuing verses, twice it says “but they refused to repent of what they had done.” All God really wanted was for people to repent – to see that true forgiveness came only through turning to Him for it.

Sometimes, our troubles are tests.  Some years ago, I heard a quote that stuck with me – “People are like teabags, you only really know what people are really made of when you put them in hot water.” It’s so true! James 1:3-12 says “Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything… Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Sometimes, God just wants to test us – to see where we truly stand with Him.  Will we continue to go to Him for help even when it seems like He’s not listening? Will we continue to praise Him even when we don’t feel like it?  Will we continue to love and serve others even when it doesn’t seems to be making a difference?

Sometimes, our difficulties are for God to display His awesomeness in us and through us.  One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in the first few verses of John 9. The disciples come upon a grown man who had been blind from birth.  Assuming that this man’s misfortune was due to someone messing up… they asked Jesus “Who sinned for this man to be born blind – did he or his parents?”  Jesus replied, “No, neither.  This man was born blind in order that through him, God would be glorified.”  It was right after that Jesus healed him.  The man regained his sight and went out telling people around the countryside the wonderfulness of God.  The challenge for us however, can be looking at our circumstances from this perspective.  Could God want to use your challenge, pain and suffering to show Himself to those around you?

My hope is that we will all try and look at the challenges and trials that come from God’s perspective – He has promised to never leave us (Heb. 13:5)

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; 
from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 
You will increase my honor and comfort me once more. Psalm 71:20-21

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