A friend of mine held a good job and was able to freely make a difference for God in her position, but she was terminated for no apparent reason. The subsequent positions she has held have been less than what she desires and full of difficulty. She knows that she took the original job after much prayer and careful consideration, but the loss has caused her a great deal of pain and confusion. “Where is God in all of this?” she wonders, especially given how much she loved her job and her obedience to God. So far, God has not revealed His plans or His reasons to her.
Her story is one of many like it. Sometimes the job is lost, and a better one never appears. The simple surgery does not go well, and despite the prayers and the assurance of the medical team, the family member does not survive. The relationship is not able to be mended, and the consequences echo for years to come.
How do we face those negative and hurtful, yet unchanging, situations of life?
I believe there is one key factor to begin to accept those moments with more grace and to reclaim hope in the middle of suffering: we must realize that there is more to come than the suffering we experience right now. We live in a sinful, temporary world in preparation for a sinless, eternal existence.
The Bible never promises that we will have worldly success and a lifetime of comfort while here. In fact, God promises quite the opposite…
“In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33).
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).
But there is another promise that we can trust as well…
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Notice that Paul does not write, “All things are good.” Some things are bad. Some are very bad. Suffering will come, but God will work and weave all things – the great times and the tragic moments, the happiest seasons and the darkest hours – for our ultimate good even if we do not see things become better during our earthly lifetime.
Take, for example, the words of Jeremiah as he conveys a message from God to the captives taken to Babylon. They want to return home and be free, but God tells them that they will be held captive for 70 years. He then commands them to live for Him in their exile assuring them that He has good plans for them and will return them to their land after a time (Jeremiah 29:4-11). Many of those in Babylon would never see God’s plans for that future fulfilled; they would die in captivity. But God’s ultimate plan is still good, and He is seeking a national restoration beyond many of their individual physical lives. Despite being held in a foreign country against their wills, God’s people are to make the best of the situation even though they are trapped.
You must live for God even if you are stuck in Babylon.
We might see God redeem some pain and certain situations, but all too often we expect a restoration here and now instead of seeking endurance to live for what is to come. Let’s fix our eyes on eternity and allow God to empower us to live for Him both in a dark world now, and also in the kingdom of light ahead.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:13-16).