Have you ever wondered, “Why did God allow this to happen to me? Does He even love me? If He did love me, wouldn’t He stop this?
1 Peter 1:1-2 “Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
Have you ever felt like an “elect exile?” Does God feel far away?
Many of us, when going through a hardship, believe God has abandoned us. Or maybe He doesn’t see our pain, for wouldn’t He stop it?
Just ask the Jewish people, arguably the most persecuted ethnic group in history. Time and time again, they were wronged by whichever nation had the upper hand. From having their children sold into slavery and separating families, to having their crops stolen (the only thing standing between them and starvation), to being taken captive, these people faced staggeringly difficult trials.
Yet, what I’d like us to focus on today isn’t their specific plight, though. I’d like us to dwell on the fact that these battered Hebrews (and later, all the persecuted Christians) were God’s chosen people.
When we cry out against our suffering, telling God we don’t deserve this, or that He is cruel to allow it to happen to us, or ask Him why He allows such things in our life, we should remember that God spares no one trials. Even His most precious people suffer. God didn’t even spare His own Son!
Simply because we are God’s beloved people doesn’t mean we will not suffer.
We can grow entitled, especially living in a rich country where our one common goal is to attain selfish indulgence, pleasure, and happiness for themselves. We avoid suffering at all costs — unless, of course, we believe it enables us to gain future fleshly pleasures. We will undergo pain, like the displeasure of study or the hardship of training our bodies — only if we believe it will benefit us later.
Yet when hard times come, all too often our first thought is, “This cannot possibly be good!” What is wrong with our thinking? When we understand that “pain is gain” and know what the outcome is, we are willing to put up with discomfort with that future benefit in view. Yet when trials come, and we can’t see a purpose fitting with our personal goals, we cry, “Unfair!”
But pause a moment. Why do we ask “Why?” We already know at least part of the answer!
Every trial is allowed by God to make us more like Him. If it is an illness, perhaps He wants us to grow in patience and endurance. If it is an annoying person, perhaps He wants us to see the depths of His grace. If He allows the devil to tempt us, perhaps He wishes us to turn to Him for strength and grace to resist. If an unsaved loved one perishes, perhaps this will stir us up to sharing the Gospel more. If it is a horrific tragedy, perhaps He longs for us to simply weep for the brokenness of our world and long even more for Heaven.
Yet on this side of heaven, we will not know every reason why.
But we do know our God is loving.
He does all things with our good in mind. (Romans 8:28) His wisdom is superior to our understanding. We might not like the situation we are in, yet we must surrender to His plan and accept His grace and peace for the trial.
Remember, you are His ransomed, His beloved bride! Do you think He would give you a trial if it wasn’t for your good and for the praise of His glory?
Think about what God has done for you; you were known before the foundation of the world. God chose this time in history, this life, this family, this situation, this struggle — all for you. He saved you, rescued you from your debt of sin, paid the punishment you deserved, and now, sanctifies you through Jesus’ work and the Spirit. God gave you the power to obey Christ by faith.
As Elisabeth Elliot often said, “You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
You are His child. Simply because He allows suffering does not mean He doesn’t love you. Far from it!
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined —and everyone undergoes discipline— then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits, and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:3-11
Because of His great love, God is giving you an opportunity for sanctification.
We could summarize the verse with double negatives as, “Whom the Lord loves not, He does not discipline.” In other words, Whom He loves He disciplines.
Even in the midst of trials, you can rest assured, friend: He loves you.