“That’s not fair!”
We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it, whether or not we want to admit it (I mean, teenage years…hello). We’ve all hoped that when we uttered those words, someone would come running to our aid to help whatever the unfair situation may be. Does that generally happen? Hardly.
Growing up, I always hoped that when I lost a game because someone was cheating, or someone else got to play with a new toy before I did, I could run to my mom, tell her it wasn’t fair, and she would fix it so that I would get my way. Thankfully my mom taught me in those moments, at a young age, that life isn’t fair. Sometimes we’re going to lose the game due to someone else cheating, or not get to play with the cool new toy first, or whatever the case may be at the time…because that’s life. That answer was certainly not what I wanted to hear at the time, but looking back, I am extremely appreciative.
Fast forward a few years, to a time where the worst thing is no longer losing in Monopoly to a sneaky banker who has been stealing money the whole game, and the same principle applies.
When you don’t get into the college you’ve dreamed your whole life of going to.
When you lose your job.
When a family member gets a terminal disease.
When life keeps tossing things your way that make you want to throw your hands up and yell, “God, this isn’t fair!”
Revisiting the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that I talked about in my last blog post, I’d like us to consider a moment how our perspective on struggles might change if we had their heart towards trials, but also towards trust in God.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
But if not. God is big enough to remove trials in our lives. He’s big enough to make things “fair” in our sight, but is that really what’s best? Possibly. But I want us to look at a couple other places in the Bible that point to something so much bigger than making us comfortable.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Looking at these three separate passages of Scripture, I want to focus on three truths.
First, when we view trials as a bad thing, we miss out on experiencing joy in a new way. When we seek God’s face in dark times, we shift our focus from our circumstances, to the One who controls them. It tests our faith, and is part of our sanctification as it makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Second, when we say we love God, we have to trust when He says He works everything together for the good of those who love Him. It is much easier said than done, but I can name a few times I have gotten down on my face and cried out to my Savior to remind my heart that He works everything together for good. He is loving. He is sovereign. He is good.
Third, this idea goes beyond just outward circumstances; it also deals with our sinful hearts. For almost half of my life, I have struggled with low self-esteem. I know what the Lord says about me, and about who I am in Him, but that didn’t take away the daily battle of trying to combat those lies Satan was feeding me with the truth. I’ve had to come to a place of knowing that I may never live without that struggle. I recognize that it is of my sinful flesh, but I also recognize that God is sovereign over sin. He is in complete control. If it were to bring Him the most glory by taking that struggle from me, He would. Do we really believe that? He knows my every thought, and He’s not taking this “thorn in my flesh” from me, so I must assume that, at least for now, it is best for me to pursue Him in spite of it. God can still use my sinful self for His purposes. We can’t write off sin as okay because God isn’t taking away the desire for it, because as long as we are on this earth, we will be faced with the desire to sin. But we do have to understand that with that sin, we must lay it at the foot of the Cross, surrendering it to our Heavenly Father, and let Him do with it what He wills best. If that means taking away the stronghold, to Him be the glory. But if not…to Him be the glory.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.