When times are tough, and the world seems like it’s caving in on top of you, one of our natural instincts is to turn towards God, with our arms outstretched towards the heavens, and exclaim in a voice of despair: “Why me, God?” Inherent within that statement is the belief that somehow the universe has chosen you, in some sort of cosmic roulette, to be this week’s participant in the hit game show Everyone Hates Me – a game in which you feel like you just played last week. But, as chance would have it, you spun the wheel of destiny and had to move back three spaces, forcing you to take another turn in this wretched cycle of misery, which just seems incredibly unjust. “Why me, God? Why do bad things always happen to me?”
If you feel like that, you’re in good company. Coming off the heels of a monumental victory in 1 Kings 18 against the prophets of Baal, Elijah proclaims his own misery by stating that the world has rejected his message, killed other messengers, and now are hot on his trail too. David, who was the rightful king of Israel, had to run from Saul for close to 15 years for the simple fact that Saul was jealous of him. Jeremiah was thrown into a pit. Daniel was cast into lion’s dens. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. Moses put up with incessant whining. Jesus was forsaken by His closest disciples. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh.” Come to think of it, can you think of one Biblical character that didn’t have some kind of earthly affliction which would’ve broken most normal people? Shouldn’t that then tell us something about our own lives?
We often turn to the book of Job for encouragement in dark times (James 5:11); after all, if he could remain faithful with what he want through, the rest of us have little reason to complain. He seems to stand as the pinnacle of a man who lost everything and yet was found faithful, but what we often overlook in this story is that his monumental test did not first come without some prudence by God. After bragging about Job to Satan in Job 1:8, Satan then asks: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face.” The challenge is put forth, the wager set, and God allows Satan to curse Job, literally taking everything he owns up to within an inch of his life. Most of us are familiar with how this story ends, as Job remains steadfast through close to 40 chapters of defamation by his “friends,” and all is restored, but the question then remains, why did God allow Job to go through that in the first place? The short answer is, because He knew Job could handle it.
How in the world could I make such a bold statement? Look to 1 Corinthians 10:13, a simple verse that reads: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” We see from this verse and Job’s predicament two guarantees about these inevitable temptations: (1) There will never be a temptation that we are physically, mentally, or spiritually unable to endure (despite how much it may feel like it, because (2) there will always be a way of escape to get out of it, if we so choose. Sometimes that “way of escape” is a door to run out of in the case of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, sometimes it is the patience necessary to put up with something for a long period of time. Regardless, there will always be a path to resist trials, if we so choose to take it.
But these temptations are not for kicks and giggles. We may think that the universe is having a laugh at our expense, but, as with all things with God, these trials are ultimately for our benefit, although we may not see it. James 1:2-4 relates the end product of trials is perseverance, growth, and a stronger resolve towards God, which is ultimately one of the things that God wants from us all along. Imagine that: something beautiful and good coming from things that are so terrible and “unfair.” It’s almost poetic, wouldn’t you agree?
So the next time we find ourselves shaking our fists at the sky, cursing the ground we walk on for our “lot” in life (pun very much intended), just remember that what is perceived by us as mere mortals to be suffering for suffering’s sake, are really the growing pains of faith, designed to make us stronger and closer to Him. And as with Job, God would not allow us to go through them if He wouldn’t provide that “way of escape” and didn’t have supreme confidence in your current strength already. In a way, you could argue that the more severe the trial, the more God thinks of you. In such a case, that accusation that we started this discussion with, turns from “Why Me, God?” into a “Why not me, God?”Last modified: January 22, 2019