It’s taken me several days to be able to put this blog together. This blog post isn’t written for the person who has all the answers or can fully explain the difficulties of life. Let’s be honest before God and others! This post is going to be brutally honest and unsettling. However, if we can recognize and accept the truths that I present herein; we can walk with integrity and certainty with God in our journeys of faith. I consistently grapple with these concepts and applications too.
There is meaning and purpose even when we can’t perceive or understand it
For a biblical example, let’s consider Naomi from the book of Ruth. Naomi’s family left Bethlehem for Moab due to a severe famine. Things seemed okay as her family was able to find wives for her sons. Yet tragedy soon came upon her. She lost her husband and sons. In the ancient world this was a serious situation as her entire family line was in danger of going extinct. She decides to return home to Israel. When she does make it back, she changes her name from Naomi “pleasant” to Mara “bitterness”. I plan to write more about Naomi and Ruth in later blogs.
Like Naomi we will experience death, sorrow, grief, and shattered dreams and hope(s). Are you honest enough to admit that there are times when our lives and situations seem hopeless? Naomi blamed God for her misfortune. I believe that Naomi is being honest and accurately perceives that God has allowed or even brought great suffering into our lives.
One faces two schools of thought in this situation: either God allows or causes events in our lives or things just happen by chance. Can we really know what God causes or allows? An honest answer would be that our finite and human minds can’t fully comprehend God’s ways. We can believe a Good, Loving, Perfect God brings about things for a purpose or we can believe that everything is up to chance.
Larry Crabb compares God to a good friend who doesn’t help us as we would expect. He asks this question:
“How do we trust a sometimes disappointing, seemingly fickle God who fails to do for us what good friends, if they could, would do?” pg. 31 Larry reminds us: “Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams that we improperly value are destroyed. . . They help us discover true hope. pg 32.” He explains that our lesser dreams and hopes keep us from experiencing true joy and hope in Christ. Is it possible that God shatters us to deeper bless us?
What we believe about God is crucial in moments of difficulty.
Reading God’s Word and learning God’s attributes and character guides us in knowing Him. We can choose to trust God or become bitter and angry about the events of our lives. I have done both in my journey. Bitterness begins with the daily hurts and confusion that comes when things fall apart in life. We blame God, ourselves, and others. This then becomes a cynical pattern that gets worse. As time progresses we turn inward and away from God and others. I believe that disappointment and discouragement are Satan’s greatest weapons against the faithful. Once we’re convinced that God isn’t really good; we stop seeking and trusting Him. Later, we can justify just about anything we think or do in our lives because we feel as though it’s up to us to find meaning, purpose, and joy.
We let our experiences and perceptions twist our view of God. When this happens we need to go back to the basics. I recommend reading Psalms 51 and 103 as both will guide you back to God! Knowing God doesn’t make the difficulties go away, but it helps us to keep proper perspective and remain faithful in trusting in God.
God has a purpose and works through our brokenness and hurts
Thankfully, God has mercy on us and softens our hearts with His truths! God’s truth is that we will face suffering and difficulties, but not alone and not without purpose!
“Dreams for good things may shatter, but our pain will always have a purpose. It will not go away, but it will do its work. It will stir an appetite for a higher purpose–the better hope of knowing God well enough to love Him above everything else. . . and trusting Him no matter what happens. The best hope, our highest dream of being in His presence where nothing ever goes wrong and where we fully enjoy Him more than every other blessing, will not be granted till the next life.” pg 32.
This truth should free us from the false appeals of faithless living! Nothing on this earth can ever fully satisfy or give us meaning. Larry reminds us that pain has no purpose in heaven because our appetites for God will be perfect. In simple terms, we will desire Him perfectly and nothing will stand in our way. But this won’t happen until our lives end or Christ returns.
Yet we still live in the present so what should we consider?
“For now, while we still have such a hard time realizing that what’s good is not always best, suffering still has a function. As nothing else can, it moves us away from demanding what’s good. . .toward desiring what’s better . . . until heaven provides what’s best.” pg. 32
We tend to let the good get in the way of what’s best! How does this look in our lives? We all gravitate toward immediate satisfaction and finding joy in temporal things. We seek fulfillment in adventures, activities, relationships, careers, etc.
Over the past years, I have sought meaning and fulfillment in my career choice/jobs. God has recently brought this false foundation crumbling down in my life. I have felt lost and purposeless during the past months. How I feel is a clear indication of just how foolishly I built on a weak foundation.
Our feelings warn and guide when things are not right or missing
God created humans with emotions and feelings to warn us when something isn’t right! When our foundations are crumbling, we know that we built/or are depending on the wrong thing. While a good job or career can be a source of blessing in our lives–our ultimate purpose comes from God and our identity in Him! I know this truth but fail to understand and properly apply it.
God is a Jealous God who Perfectly Loves His Children
God mercifully draws us back to Him when we stray! So when things seem the most bleak in life, we need to consider the reality that God is working to ground us in Him. God loves us perfectly. Loving us perfectly means that He doesn’t allow us to settle for good when that keeps us from Him! God is a jealous God–a perfect kind of jealous. Because God is Infinitely Good and Perfect for us, He tolerates no other idols or competing loves that keep us from Him.
While it definitely hurts when God exposes our wayward thoughts and desires, it’s ultimately His mercy that crushes our “lesser dreams.” It’s God’s Love and Compassion that discipline and restore us. Take a moment to read the following passages of Scripture: Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:4-11, and Revelations 3:19-20. Consider Christ’s words to the Laodicean Christians who were “lukewarm” and Ephesian Christians who had left first love (Rev. 2).
Christ invites us all to repent and come back to Him. This call comes from a merciful God who patient works to redeem and restore us! Know that your Good Shepherd doesn’t leave you lost and alone in the wilderness of our lost world. May His voice touch and stir your heart to a deeper, greater love for Him!
For His glory through encouraging others, I write these words