SOMETIMES BEING FAITHFUL WHEN ALL IS NOT WELL IS THE GREATEST TESTIMONY WE CAN GIVE
My husband and I just finished reading through the story of Job in the Bible. I can honestly remember a time when, as a young girl, I would hurriedly turn past that book. In my mind, I felt that if I didn’t read about dealing with hard times, maybe I wouldn’t have to face them. How juvenile! Boy, how wrong I was! Ready or not, life has a way of getting all in our business.
I know of situations all around me, and have come through a number of them myself, where the outcome of circumstances was quite different from what had been prayed. It reminds me of that old song, “We’ll understand it better by and by,” because there are some things we’re not going to understand here.
Life is so full of circumstances which are unfair. It just is. It has been since the fall of Adam, in which Satan took over the earth’s lease from one man’s (and woman’s) disobedience. Every bad thing which you’ve ever encountered is a result of sin being given dominion in the earth…not necessarily that you or I did something in particular to deserve the bad, but that sin itself has a place of rule in our atmosphere. It sets up a chain reaction of sorrow, pain, sickness, loss, and ruin which attacks everyone in its path. Deserve has nothing to do with it, as often as not.
There have been so many instances when I’ve prayed—and sincerely believed—for a favorable outcome, only for it not to happen as I’d hoped. Good people have gone on to be with the Lord who, if measured by their faithfulness to God, should have been healed and gone on to live out their days unscathed. And every time I interceded on their behalf, my mind always went to how the Lord would be glorified if they received their miracle. My heart counted on seeing people’s faith bolstered when that miracle took place; and in part, my prayers were often motivated by a fear that people would become discouraged and forsake the Lord if an outcome was not as was hoped for.
I can’t fathom how God has such a more thorough view of things than we have. We’re told in the Scriptures that His ways are higher than ours, and it’s true. One thing I’m learning as I grow in the Lord is, His answers to our prayers are always based on eternity rather than this one tiny life. As a matter of fact, if we received a ‘yes’ to every prayer, we humans would make everything about the here and now. Our affections would be vested in the present, rather than eternity. Our desires would be totally self-serving.
I’m not saying that everything we ask for is selfish. Most of the time, we’re asking for good things; needed things. But just as a child who gets everything it whines for, we too would become spoiled if we got everything we asked for in prayer. We would serve God just for the loaves and fishes, rather than to know Him intimately. When Who He is becomes eclipsed by what we can get out of Him, we bypass relationship for quick gratification. And when good people have only good things happen to them, we begin to forget that it’s God’s grace instead of our works which gives us favor in His sight.
So where’s the balance in it all? We should always pray with faith in the Word and what it says about our situation; but we must always allow God the sovereignty in how He chooses to answer. He knows so much more about the future than we can possibly comprehend. And in truth, sometimes we need to see living examples of people who remain faithful even when the outcome of their prayers isn’t what they asked. Though it’s not what we enjoy witnessing, we sometimes need to see good people encounter difficulties and face them with courage. Sometimes we ourselves are those good people who have to walk in wilderness settings. You can learn a lot more about faith from someone who has to forge through trial and tribulation, than you can from someone who seems to have everything going right and well in his/her life.
If we never have to go through hard times, we are probably not going to be compassionate toward others who struggle. It’s easy to become sanctimonious when we feel we have an “edge” on other people spiritually. Why do you think Jesus allowed Himself to experience everything a human can be tempted with? Aren’t you glad He intercedes for you before the Father, knowing that He has first-hand experience at what you’re facing and feeling?
We also need to remember that when we’re going through terrible things,God’s not doing it to us! Going back to the truth that sin has ruined Eden for all of us, remember that your enemy—the Devil—is behind anything bad you’re encountering. So often I hear people misquote the Scriptures, and their explanation of the hard time is that “God won’t PUT ANYTHING on us that we can’t bear.” That’s not what it says! It says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not LET you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13 NIV) Furthermore, His Word says, “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.” (James 1:13 NLT) It is true, however, that God will test us; but it’s not so that He can see whether we will remain faithful. He already knows! He allows us to go through things so that we ourselves can know the depth of our faith. And like muscles, faith will atrophy if we don’t have to exercise it once in awhile. Remember, a test from God is designed to strengthen and refine you…a temptation or attack of the enemy is an attempt to destroy you, and at the very least, to destroy your faith. If something has come about to steal from you, to kill you, or to destroy you or someone you love, it’s not God’s doing! It’s orchestrated by the one who kills, steals, and destroys. Jesus’ will is to give you life—and a more abundant one, at that!
As we wait for answers to our many requests today, I pray that we will be willing to allow God to answer our needs in light of eternity. I pray that we’ll be mature enough to endure with grace those seasons when there is no detour around trouble. And I pray that, should we have to come through something unthinkably hard, our testimony of remaining faithful to the end will be as effective an example as if our troubles had vanished immediately upon asking. Whether you realize it, your life and how you live it is an ongoing teaching to others, so we need to be teaching the right lesson! It’s not all about this life, but eternity! Those saints who allowed themselves to be martyred for their faith knew this…and not even death could defeat them. Even now, when we come to the end of this finite human life, death cannot defeat us because Jesus took the keys to death and Hell!
Lord, we want blessing all the time; we just do. The carnal, selfish part craves getting our own way and it pouts when we don’t get it. But I pray, help us this day to be faithful in plenty and in famine, in good times and in bad, and in times when the answer isn’t what we asked for. You are good all the time; may our speech, our attitudes, and our actions point to an eternal versus a temporal hope in You. Just as You restored Job after a terrible storm in his life, You will take care of us too. In life and in death, people are watching us, so help us to live right and to die right, perhaps leading someone else to an eternity with You in the process. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
©2012 Lisa Crum