The loss of a job, the rebellion of a child, marital strife, prolonged illness, the death of a spouse, divorce, financial ruin, adultery, overwhelming work responsibilities, church strife, cancer, addiction, depression, the loss of a child — these are but a few of the storms and trials we might face in this life. These are the kinds of occurrences that push us to our limits, and sometimes far beyond what we thought were our limits. The question we frequently ask in the midst of such trials is, “Where is God in this?” Or perhaps more poignantly, “Why is God letting this happen to me?”
On Sunday, we looked at Matthew 14:22-33, which is the story of Christ sending the Disciples into the storm and then coming to them by walking on the water. One particular fact of that story is that Jesus intentionally made the disciples get into the boat and go out onto the sea even though He knew a storm was coming. Then He intentionally allowed them to remain in the peril of the storm for eight or nine hours before going out to them on the water.
Why did Jesus do this to His men? Mark 6:52 tells us that they had not gained any insight from the feeding of the 5,000 and that their hearts were hardened. Thus, His purpose in sending them into the storm was to refocus them on what was most important (the kingdom, not themselves), to return them to total dependence upon Him, and to deepen their faith in Him as the sovereign Son of God. His purpose was indeed accomplished. As a result of encountering Christ through the storm, Matthew 14:33 tells us that for the first time, the disciples corporately worshiped Jesus and said together “You are certainly God’s Son!” The storm brought them to the end of themselves and gave them a much deeper and much more profound understanding of Christ.
God’s purpose is the same in our trials and storms, wherever they may come from. Sometimes we face storms simply because we live in a sinful world where harmful things happen. Sometimes we face storms because the forces of darkness are assailing us. Sometimes we face storms because of our own sinful choices and decisions, or because of the sinful choices of those close to us. But ultimately, everything we experience comes to us through the hand of our Heavenly Father who either allows or initiates our trials according to His sovereign purpose.
God has the power to spare us from any hardship, even hardships of our own making. In fact, we must realize that each of us have been spared a multitude of trials that were secretly kept at bay by the exercise of His protective grace. However, we must also realize that we will suffer other hardships; hardships that come to us as a consequence of sin. Our comfort lies in realizing that the trials we do experience are ordained for us according to His sovereign plan — to teach us, to correct us, to mature our faith, and ultimately to give Him glory.
Therein lies our source of joy in the midst of suffering. Though we may be utterly crushed by the weight of abandonment, loss, betrayal, and ruin; though we may be brought to the place where there are no words to speak, where there are only deep groans and sobs; though we may suffer a kind of inward pain that makes us pray for death, even in these darkest of hours, we have hope. We know that our God is on His throne. We know that He is good, and that even now, He is laboring in the world to undo the curse of sin. We know that Christ is one who will never leave us nor forsake us; He will always love us, always be true to us, always shepherd us, and always intercede for us. We know that every wrong will one day be righted, and that an eternity in His perfect presence, without suffering, loss, and pain, awaits us.
These wondrous beauties of His grace sparkle ever more brilliantly when we behold them against the backdrop of the darkest night. They undergird and inform our faith even in the fiercest storms, enabling us to say with Job, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Even more, we can rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet 1:3-9) knowing that our sovereign God is exalted as our earthly dependencies are wiped away and our faith in Him is strengthened. So take heart my beloved; Christ has embraced ultimate suffering that we may ultimately be free from suffering. To Him Be The Glory!