Life can be hard — extremely hard at times. Sometimes the weight of our trials can seem unbearable. For the Christian, we know and believe that God is in control of all things — the good, the bad, and even the ugly. We acknowledge and repeat, “For those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), gripping on to the promise and waiting for the hard times to pass.
But not every hard season turns over so quickly, and many times we can be left wondering what God is doing, and even if he hears our cries while we roam the wilderness. It’s hard to hold our gaze heavenward day in and day out, especially when we don’t see any change in our circumstances.
My husband and I were going through a season of drought, of wandering in the wilderness. We knew we weren’t alone, but it felt like we were. We had the head knowledge of God being near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), but still our hearts longed for relief. Family medical diagnoses pushed me to the point where I just wanted to say, “Enough.” I wanted rest and peace from our suffering, and I wanted it now.
“If God is in sovereign control of everything in my life, why does everything in my life feel hard and painful?”
We know that God is in sovereign control of all things. Each day he wakes us with a new sunrise (Lamentations 3:23), each day his eyes see every sparrow that falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), each day he knows who will cut us off while on our commute to work — the moments we will be tempted to give in to our sin, or to despair in our current situations. We sing songs of God’s sovereignty, and we see evidence of his control throughout nature (Psalm 24:1–2).
But in the moments of trials we want his sovereign hand to turn the page, to remove us from the situation. In our despair, our hearts and minds can leave us feeling hopeless. God’s not listening. Why is this happening to me? At some point the pattern of bad news after bad news can start to feel cruel. If God is in sovereign control of everything in my life, why does everything in my life feel hard and painful?
Read the Story to the End
Our hope is placed in one who was abandoned and killed on a cross. The one who surely could have said, “Enough!” chose to endure the suffering of eternal punishment for the great joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2) — the joy of rescuing his bride (Acts 20:28; Revelation 21:2), of receiving an eternal throne from the Father (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:34–36), a name above every name (Philippians 2:9), and a rule above all rule and authority and power and dominion (Ephesians 1:21).
If we stop reading the account of Joseph being sold by his brothers and being imprisoned, we’ll miss the beautiful ending of forgiveness that was offered to his brothers, as well as God’s good plan to save his people from drought and famine (Genesis 50:20–21). If we don’t finish reading the book of Job, we won’t know of God’s kindness and care for Job (Job 10:12; 42:10–17).
“The road to Calvary was not glamorous or Pinterest perfect, and our road won’t be either.”
If we left off on Good Friday and never made it to Jesus’s revelation to Mary in the garden (John 20:16), the Bible would seem cruel. God’s sovereignty would leave us with the accusing question, “What have you done?”
But Resurrection Sunday really did happen. We weren’t just left with a terrible Friday and a silent Saturday. Our hope for today, for tomorrow, for the trial that right now seems endless was nailed to the cross and rose again. None can stay God’s hand, and because of Christ’s vindicating resurrection, none can say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35).
Often, we get stuck in merely knowing God’s word, without letting it change our hearts. Our culture screams for instant gratification and Instagram perfectionism when Christ calls us down long, dirty roads of trials and sorrows — the very same road that he himself walked. The road to Calvary was not glamorous or Pinterest perfect, and if we’re following him, ours will not be either (Mark 8:34). This is not because God is cruel, but because God cares more about showing us more of himself and making us more like Christ than he does making us comfortable now.
I love easygoing days and sometimes daydream too much of having simply well-behaved kids who never argue, instantly-cured medical conditions, restored friendships, a honeymoon-state marriage — but that’s not where God wants our hearts, in a constant state of comfort and ease. He has called us to far greater treasures that require pruning and placing us in the furnace (Job 2:10).
“God cares more about showing us himself and making us more like him than he does making us comfortable now.”
The valleys of life are low, but they are also deeply filled with grace that we would never be able to experience at the top. Trials help us see the character of God in ways that we can never experience when everything is going fine. I bless the Lord when he gives ease and calm, but more than that, my heart longs to know God in a deeper, more intimate way. Often, this requires my faith being tested in ways that I may not want or by circumstances that I would not choose.
When our hearts start to despair and want to scream out, “Enough!” we need to fight the urge to believe that God’s sovereignty in our lives is cruel. The fight for faith in suffering is the fight to remember, believe, and feel the truth that in all God is, and in all God does, he is good and works all things for our good — even if we need to reach the end of the story before we see how.