We all experience tough times, periods when we’re confused or in trouble.
Maybe it’s spiritual struggles, ill-health, disappointments at school or work, loneliness, depression or trouble in our relationships with others. When times like this come Christians often ask why God has allowed these things to happen? The answer may be surprising. It’s easy to think that God has sent difficult things into our lives as a punishment, and indeed maybe he is reproving us – “Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth / chasteneth” (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6). The reality is though, that whether reproving us or not, it is always done in love, and because of this God frequently turns tough times into times of great blessing.
Here are five ways in which God uses the hard things he brings into our lives to bless us and do us good.
- More Prayer – When life is going well we often find ourselves praying less frequently and neglecting Bible study. God brings hard things into our lives to make us turn back to him, to teach us to rely on him and to show us how we’re unable to manage things for ourselves. Spiritually, it is when we really feel our sin that we most earnestly cry to God for forgiveness. Times of spiritual darkness force us to plead with God to shine light into our hearts. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” (James 5:13) Prayer is God’s answer to difficult times.
- Relying on Him – “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8) When you find yourself in a situation when you don’t know what to do, who do you turn to? Our natural response is to try to work things out by ourselves, or to ask other people for help. But in some situations, no one will be able to help us nor will we be able to help ourselves. In contrast, God is always able to help whatever circumstances we are in. When God brings us into a pathway where no one else can help, he is teaching us to rely on him alone.
- Remembering God’s Promises – God uses tough times to teach us to trust in his promises. What he said to Asaph – “call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15) – would have been no help if Asaph hadn’t been in trouble. It might have been nice to know that the promise was there, but until he was in that time of trouble and cried out to the Lord, Asaph would not really have appreciated the full meaning and value of it. So many of God’s promises in the Bible are like this, we only fully grasp their depth when we have to ask God to fulfil them for us in a time of need. Meditate on what the Bible tells us about God and his promises, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9), or “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). Taking the time to focus on who God is, and to know that he is who he says he is, will help you to have faith in him and to trust his promises.
- Anticipating Heaven – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) What a wonderful description of heaven this is and how much more we long to be there when life on earth is difficult and full of trouble. When life is easy we would happily live on this earth forever, but God has prepared a better place for his people. He uses trials in this life to help us to let go of earthly things and desire more and more to be with him in heaven.
- God’s glory – The account of Lazarus makes it clear that God uses our circumstances for his glory. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick he said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” (John 11:4) Jesus seemed to act in a strange way, delaying until Lazarus had died before going to Bethany, but we know that it was all done out of love for his friends and for the glory of God (read the full account in John 11). When life is difficult, but our reaction is to turn more to God in prayer, relying on him and his promises, it brings glory to God. He may have put difficult things into your life so that he is glorified as he supports and helps you through them or delivers you from them. When we do experience God working in our lives in this way remember to give him the glory by thanking Him and speaking to others about the goodness of God towards us even in circumstances that we wouldn’t have chosen.
The title asks the question, tough times or God’s goodness? God may not always take our difficulties away, but he has promised to support us through them, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” (Psalm 55:22) And, the truth is that for Christians, the tough times in life are part of God’s goodness, times which God uses to draw his people closer to him and to prepare them for eternity in heaven.
[A00073 – 04/05/2018]
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)