Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God the Source of Your Troubles?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.   Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

 We've begun a new series of study. We're examining God's great love and mercy and all the time goodness further by exploring the suffering question. That is the question of human suffering in light of Grace and the Finished Work. 

 So far we've seen God is indeed good no matter what. We've looked into the concept that God is sending judgment on cities, towns, provinces, and nations. We've asked and answered the question is God the source of your sickness or disease? 

 Today, I want to ask and answer another question. Is God the source of your troubles? What do I mean by troubles? Troubles can be defined as, problems, difficulties, misfortune, trials, tribulations, trauma, heartache, grief, anxiety, burdens, misery, afflictions, and unpleasantness. So is God the author of your misery and sorrow? Is God the author of your trauma and heartache? If we were to consult religious tradition the answer would be yes in some shape or fashion.

The Troublemaker?

 When I was a child I recall adults and older kids giving warnings about avoiding certain people. They would say avoid them for they are "troublemakers".  In other words, they would misbehave in public, backtalk authority figures, flaunt the rules and generally cause those around them to also suffer consequences of the troublemaker's poor behavior. The troublemaker made life challenging for others.

 So is God our troublemaker? Is God in Heaven concocting schemes and scenarios and situations to bring you misery, heartache, and pain? Is God our Father devising a plan to cause problems, difficulties, misfortune, and tribulation to manifest in your life? The religious traditions of men so often seem to convey the message that God is the source of our hardship and misfortune. 

 Once again, this concept of hyper-control is at the root cause of this. It's as if a leaf falls from a tree and if God somehow didn't ordain it, it must mean God is not the supreme authority in the Universe. We as believers must renew our minds to the truth of the Word. God is the supreme authority but He isn't controlling, navigating, causing every single event on this Earth. That doesn't mean He isn't God, the sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth.

 Let's examine some Scripture about God's goodness.
sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 NKJV

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. Psalm 34:6 NKJV

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 NKJV

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 NKJV
 Have you noted a pattern here in Psalm 34? Man has fears, troubles, and afflictions. Allow me to pause and establish briefly, what I am not saying. We see it clear right here. We live in a fallen and fractured creation. In a sense, we are in hostile territory. We have all experienced challenges and difficulties. I am not suggesting that you will never have a challenge or trial. 

 Going back to the Psalm, what pattern do you see? Man has fears, troubles, and afflictions. However, what other pattern do you see? What is God's role in this? God is the one bringing deliverance and salvation. He is not the One bringing what's causing the fear. He isn't sending the trouble. He isn't the author of the affliction and He never will be. Why can I say that with such confidence?
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 NKJV 
 Because God is so good. Because He is our good Father. Since we know God is good all the time, we can trust in Him. When we are in the tough times, the trial, we can trust in Him, we know He is with us and won't leave or forsake us. 

The Teacher?

 But brother isn't the adversity, the hard times, the trials, tribulations our instructor? Let me point out a Scripture passage to answer this more fully.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
 The truth is the Scripture, with the leading and guiding work of the Spirit is the true instructor. When we deposit God's Word within our heart the Spirit can lead you into the whole truth thus causing maturity and more understanding. Following the guidance of the Spirit, the Word deposited within, and acknowledging what we have in Christ, who we are in Christ, and what we can do because of Christ brings true growth and maturity.

 The adversity we may face gives us an opportunity to exercise that maturity and growth. The truth we must grasp though is that the adversity, the trial, the trouble alone, in and of itself is not bringing growth. The truth is, the hard times are not there for your good. 

 Look at the life of Joseph for clarity and understanding. He suffered misery, tribulation, heartache, and trauma throughout his life. These hard times were not designed to make him stronger or to become a better person. These situations were present to destroy him. To kill him. To remove his influence. 

 You see to experience victory, to exercise maturity and develop growth in the midst of the tough times, depends on what we do during the ordeal. Do we give up? Do we forget God? Do we cease trusting in Him? Or do we act on His Word, fully trusting Him? Certainly, it is not easy and it can be extremely difficult and challenging to trust in God in the hard times. Yet, it's trusting and clinging to God that brings us through the hard times stronger and more mature. 

 I hope we can see more clearly this issue of human suffering. It's clear, we may face fears, troubles or afflictions in this fallen and fractured creation. What we do know is God is not the source of these problems. He isn't creating, ordaining, or sending troubles our way. He is our present help in times of trouble. He isn't the one designing the trouble. He is our Good Father. In Him, we find help and hope and wholeness.

 Some reading may resist this. They will point out Peter and Paul and James' words thinking that they taught God wants us to experience hardship and trauma to grow and be a better believer. when Peter spoke, when Paul spoke, when James spoke, they were not teaching God creates and ordains affliction just so you will grow.

 What they were saying is what I already stated. Its what you do in the middle of the trial that brings growth. Look at James in another translation it really brings this out.
My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4 GNT 

 Troubles put to work the fruit that is already ours in Christ. In other words, we already have the fruit of patience within us in the New Creation. Troubles, tribulation, trials put a demand on that fruit. By spending time with God in relationship, fellowship, and understanding and continually acknowledging who we are in Christ and what we have in Christ causes that fruit to be "fed" and sustained. 

What we must also realize is there is a strong contrast between God using a situation and God creating or ordaining a situation. When it comes to troubles God will use that experience to help us mature. It doesn't mean He caused it. It doesn't mean He created it.

 For example, driving in traffic gives each of us an opportunity to exercise the patience we have within. God isn't causing or creating traffic jams. The truth is all who drive, saved or unsaved will experience heavy traffic and delays while driving. You can be bitter about it or complain about it. Or you could allow that inward fruit of patience to be exercised and thus grow stronger. 

 In summation, God is a good Father. He is always with us no matter the circumstance. He isn't the troublemaker. He is not the author of our affliction. He is not the creator of heartache and trauma. He isn't the One ordaining trouble. He is the One who will be there in the midst of it. He is the One who brings help and healing and hope. 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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