It’s (Not) Over!

CC BY-NC, luckyfish, Flickr

CC BY-NC, luckyfish, Flickr

Being a Christian doesn’t exempt one from trouble. It comes to us all—trouble independent of our involvement, trouble seen and unforeseen, trouble simply unwanted. But we have to deal with it and in a manner that keeps us mindful of the Lord’s sufferings for us. Paul calls such a communion (Ph. 3:10).

Trouble is a product of life. Things and situations go wrong in a complex world for many reasons. Scripture agrees with this but explains that trouble is also used by God to produce quality faith in us. There is probably no better encouraging text on the purpose of trial in the Christian life than Hebrews 12:5-7 (NKJV):

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

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God assures us of the value of handling trouble in a godly way. But let me tell you what really bothers me: when a sincere brother, sister, or preacher prays that a person’s trouble would end or declares that it is indeed over. I promise you that I’m not crazy. No one cares to have trouble, and sometimes I really want mine to go away. But I’ve watched myself grow more irritated and intolerant of those who lack insight about hardship.

Why does it rile me so? Sometimes people don’t have a wholesome biblical perspective on suffering, while others are plainly arrogant. Some people view all trouble as evil and from the Devil, but some things are just the kinks of life. Furthermore, if we can ascertain that trouble is from Satan, we can rightly resist it in Jesus’s name. But we’ll never be able resist trouble God permits in our lives.

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I think John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress gets it right: our way is a path to Heaven, and sometimes that path passes through difficult places. Life is not carefree or ideal. So do we fear or just run off the path or turn back when we encounter trouble? The people who see a devil behind every problem don’t discern that God has a plan with their trouble. They never learn how trouble draws them closer to God and enhances their trust in him. They fail to see that God tests the good in us.

Then there are those who make declarations and literally command God, Satan, or the trouble. They may know nothing about a person’s cares, except that in their pious, spiritual estimation they just need to behave or desist. But they don’t have a right to declare a person’s trouble finished and are truly insensitive (sometimes manipulative) and out of order to do so.

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When we’re submitted to God, our troubles will be over when God says they’re over and have achieved the purpose for which he designed them. We would do well to embrace the journey and the lessons it brings.

What we may be telling about ourselves is that we’re not resolved to take up our crosses for Jesus. We may be revealing how attached we’ve become to society and sanctify our covetousness at the expense of the trouble God allows to divest us of spiritual impurity. If we’re going to be like Jesus, let’s remember “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24, NKJV).