Most Christians do two things: Say it is not right to question God and to question God. Who among us has not felt like asking, “God, why are you using me for your target practice?” The question exposes one of our deepest needs- a sense of purpose in pain, some kind of meaning to our apparently meaningless blows.
Are we just here, like seaweed, to be battered and blown by the winds and waves of trouble, or are we placed here, like boats, with power to travel through storms, with rudders to chart our course, and with a destination? Are we alone in the water or is there a God who placed us here for a reason and pain and seemingly unanswered prayers in times of pain, are part of some larger plan for good?
When God called Paul He told him all that he would suffer for his name (Acts 9:16. And, oh how he suffered – stoning, shipwrecks, sharp pain, slander, and beheading. But from the fire itself, he cried out, “We are not alone. There is a plan in this madness. In all things” he says, “God works for the good of those who love Him and are called to be a part of his purpose and designs” (Rom. 8:28 Amplified Version)
If we approach horrible or hurtful events philosophically, looking mostly for answers, we are doomed to be disappointed.
Is God the author of the death of my child? Does God allow it? Or do things just happen and God is there to help when it does? Who knows the origin?
We must approach such things practically and relationally. As a human being, we are part of a suffering world, and therefore, should say, “Why not me?” Who am I to be spared? Jesus was not. Paul was not. Most human beings are not. But as children of God, we can go on to ask, “Why me, Lord?” in a more POSITIVE WAY. We do that when we ask God to help us find the good we can dig out of the bad. Robert Schuller says, “Within every adversity lies a sleeping possibility.”
Today we look at some beautiful things God can do with our hurts if we let Him.
1. HURT CAN DRAW US NEAR TO GOD.
We humans may go to God to accuse God, to bargain with God, to shake our fist at God, to bow before God and accept the good with the bad, to ask why or to tell Him we will not question Him – but we go! The very fact that we say, “Why me, Lord?” means we have been driven to God and to a deeper level of communication with Him. (Ito ay tanda na ng ating paglapit sa ating Panginoon…dahil alam nating Siya lang ang pwedeng makasagot sa bigat ng ating mga damdamin o pasakit).
When the storm hit the ship Jonah was sleeping in, the Bible says, “All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god” (Jon. 1:5). I love the story of the plane where the pilot told the passengers an engine was on fire. One man yelled frantically – “Do something religious – somebody!” A Catholic pulled out her beads. An Episcopalian pulled out his prayer book. The unchurched put their face in their hands and prayed. And a Pentecostal (Word of Hope member) took off his hat and took up an offering. When the ship is sinking or the plane is going down, THOUGHTS TURN NATURALLY TO GOD.
The New American Standard Bible says, “God CAUSES all things to work together for good.” The New International Version says, “In all things God WORKS for the good of those who love him.” Things do not work together for good, all by themselves. They do this when we put everything in God’s hands, and ask Him to teach us the life lessons we need and the ministry we may find in life’s hurting places.
Jesus disciples also encountered just such a time in their lives. They had all come from various walks of life before they met Jesus. Maybe for some of them, life was good, and for others life was bad. But for the past three-and-a-half years that had been with Jesus and life had been good. They had seen countless miracles, healings, deliverances, walking on water, calming the storm, feeding the 5,000, and even raising the dead. They had spent the past years listening to the greatest teachings ever spoken. Further, because they expected that Jesus would literally overthrow the Roman government and set up his kingdom in Jerusalem, they were excited because Jesus had gained popularity and they were on the inside of the movement. I’m not saying that everything was perfect for the disciples, but by-and-large life was going good for them. They had no reason to expect that in the very near future all of their expectations and hopes would fall apart. They had no idea of the crisis they were about to be put through, that Jesus would be arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified.
However, Jesus knew what was about to take place, and he wanted to prepare them for what was ahead. So, he explained to them what was about to happen. And this conversation that Jesus had with them prepared them better to accept the changes and the uncertainty that was about to come upon them.
Now, none of us likes change. None of us likes uncertainty and then eventually would hurt us…We’re always going to have a certain level of worry when we know that hard times are ahead of us. However, we can by examining Jesus’ discourse with the disciples, learn how to get through those times without worrying. John 14:1, “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me.”
Now, Jesus knowing the future which lay before his disciples, gave them encouragement to get them through. He says “You trust in God, now trust in me.” And this is really the foundation for finding peace to get through these tough, hurtful times. All of the other things that he said to them were hinged upon this one secret. TRUST IN HIM.
Philippians 4:6,7 “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
This verse tells us not to worry about anything, but to pray. And I find the focus here interesting. It doesn’t say that if you don’t worry but pray, God will instantly change all of your circumstances so there’s nothing left to worry about. That’s not trust. That’s faith. And faith is necessary. Sometimes God does want to miraculously change your circumstances. But if that’s how it was every time, then when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, then God would have said, “Okay, I’ll make another way. You don’t have to go to the cross.” But as we know, that isn’t what happened at all. There was no change in Jesus’ circumstances because of that prayer, and yet that prayer wasn’t wasted or a failure. Instead, I believe it was in that prayer that Jesus found the strength to do what was necessary – to go to the cross. It was his Trust in God that led him to pray, “Your will be done.” And it was this trust that gave him peace.
Trust and faith are really similar words, almost treated as synonyms sometimes. But really they are miles apart. Faith is what moves a mountain or calms a raging storm. What I find more spectacular than Jesus calming the storm, was his trust in God that allowed him to be fast asleep in perfect peace while the storm raged all around him. Faith is knowing that God CAN change things. TRUST IS KNOWING THAT GOD WILL DO WHAT’S BEST! It’s trust that keeps you floating until the miracle comes.
God may allow hurts to come in our live for us to see the wonders of His grace. And because of His grace, God is drawing us closer and closer to Him. How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the work, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstance, not yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology, BUT RATHER BY EXPOSING US TO ALL THESE THINGS, BY ALLOWING US TO EXPERIENCE ALL THESE, SO AS TO OVERWHELM US WITH A SENSE OF OUR OWN INADEQUACY, AND TO CLING TO HIM MORE CLOSELY.
This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God would allow our lives to be filled with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another — it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast and to continually understand that though our strength and ways fail, HE NEVER FAILS!
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ disappointments come and hope burns dim,
He never fails.
Tho’ trials surge like stormy seas around,
Tho’ testings fierce like ambushed foes abound,
Yet this my soul, with millions more has found,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim,
He never fails.
Tho’ icy blasts life’s fairest flow’rs lay low,
Tho’ earthly springs of joy all cease to flow,
Yet still ’tis true, with millions more I know,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho’ sorrow’s cup should overflow the brim,
He never fails.
Tho’ oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long,
I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng,
And there I’ll sing, with millions more, this song–
He never fails; He never fails. – J.S. Baxter, Explore The Book.
2. HURTS CAN DRAW US TO OTHERS.
One of the good things God can do is to give us more love for others, and less selfishness.
It’s amazing how selfish we are. We cling to our clan, our family, our friends, our church. When we see a street person, a wheelchair, a blind person, or any other of life’s walking wounded – we shy away. Why? Because they are different! They make us uncomfortable. We wish them well but do nothing to help them. It is only until life thrusts us into some great hurt that we join them. Our clan changes. We see life through their eyes, because we are looking from where they are.
Christopher Reeves, who played Superman, learned he wasn’t Superman when a fall from a horse left him paralyzed from the neck down. Michael J. Fox, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, said goodbye to his television career. But he said, “Hello!” to finding a cure for Parkinson’s and to working with and for all who are afflicted. Christopher Reeves, like Fox, works with and for the paralyzed. (Manny Pacquiao and others)
Many people turn their hurts into helping others, and we, who know the Lord, can go a step further, and help them find the hand of God and the hope of heaven.
3. HURT CAN DRAW US TO OUR BEST SELVES.
Hurts can draw us to God, to others and finally to ourselves – to our best selves. We never know who we really are until we are tested.
In the text, we find a man who is undergoing a severe testing of his faith – only Job, here, is unaware that he is the subject of a spiritual contest between God and Satan. The book of Job is called one of the most profound books in all of the bible for it confronts head on the toughest question of Christian existence, “Why do the righteous suffer and the evil prosper?” Or as every Christian person has cried out over the ages, “What did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening to me?” Have you ever asked God questions like that while you’re in a midnight situation that caused you to lose sleep?
- Lord, I thought I was your boy…
- Lord, I thought I was your girl…
- You told me that you’d make my enemies be my foot stools…
- You told me that I would eat the fat, drink the sweet and be merry…
- . . . But here I am, “Tossin’ – n – Turnin, Turnin’ – n – Tossin’… Tossin’ and Turnin’ all night!”
You know the story, if you’ve studied your Bible, Job suffered a tremendous series of calamities that wiped out all that he held of value. In one tragic day Job lost all his possessions, and his seven children. Subsequently, he lost his health, and was afflicted with a terrible disease that left him covered with boils from head to foot.
To top it all off, his wife turned against him, and suggested that he curse God and commit suicide. But look at Job and learn… despite all of these pressures, Job trusts in the mercy and love, and grace of God and refuses to do what Satan is trying to get him to do – that is curse God and die!
I’ve come to tell somebody… you must never surrender to the devil’s plan! I know that sometimes life gets hard and hurtful, but tell your neighbor “You have too much to lose if you give up now!”
What we must understand is that in every trial of this Christian there are two (2) purposes in operation: Satan has his purpose, and God has his.
Satan’s purpose, here, was to use the pain of Job’s illness to afflict his body. Next, to use the well-intentioned comfort of his friends to irritate his soul (because his so-called three friends – Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar – were trying to tell him that he must have done something wrong and as a result, God was punishing him,) and thirdly, to use the silence of God to assault his spirit and to break his faith.
But God’s purpose (everybody say, “God’s purpose”) God’s purpose, here, is to teach Job some truths that he never knew before and to bring out the best in Job’s life:
- To deepen his theology. (That though we are God’s children, we too will undergo trials in life)
- To help him understand God much better – and
- To provide a demonstration for all sufferers in all the ages, to bring them into an assurance that God knows what He’s doing!
Brothers and sisters, in the hurt you’re going through right now due to the many trials of life, you have got to believe that God is still in control and He knows what He’s doing! And when you recognize that God is in control, you can sleep at nights when the storms of life are raging!
- When you recognize that God is in control…You can smile when you’re money is funny and your change is strange!
- When you recognize that God is in control…You can hold your head up when situations have almost gotten the best of you!
- When you recognize that God is in control…When you lay in bed at night and can’t count your sheep, you can count your blessings!
“Well, Pastor… if that’s so easy, then why didn’t Job do it?” Understand again, that Job didn’t know of the contest between Satan and God. He didn’t know that Satan had shown up in heaven and petitioned God for a chance to beat him down. The only reason we know is because we have the evidence of scripture. Job didn’t have that – that’s why he speaks as he does in verse 4 of chapter 7: He says, “I’m going through so much now that when I lie down, I say, when shall I arise, and the night be gone? Because I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.”
But you see, we have it better than Job had it. We have the assurance of God’s Holy Word! Yes… that’s why God gave us His word in complete form, because God knows that if Satan tried to do it to Job, (a man who was perfect) he’ll try to do it to you and me (who are far less than perfect). . . And so, the next time you find yourself ‘Tossin’ – n – Turnin’ and hurting, just speak to your spirit and say… “This ain’t nothing but a test, and I’m going to wait on God to bring me out!”
Paul says, “I know what it is to be poor or have plenty. . . I have lived under all kinds of conditions. Christ gives me the strength to face anything” (Phil. 4:12-13, CEV).
I saw a sign, “Christians are like tea. Their strength does not come out until they are in hot water!”
Poem: Good Timber
The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
That stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil
To heaven from the common soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man,
But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow in ease;
The stronger wind, the tougher trees;
The farther sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength;
By sun and cold, by rain and snows,
In tree or man, good timber grows.
Where thickest stands the forest growth
We find the patriarchs of them both;
And they hold converse with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and of much strife —
This is the common law of life. – Douglas Malloch, quoted in Resource, Sept./Oct., 1992, p 7.
We don’t know ourselves, our potential, our courage, our faith, our strength in Jesus, until some crisis brings it out. Folks, life is a test and the lessons grow harder the longer we live and it is those people who overcome obstacles that we admire the most.
None of this is automatic. The blessings come for those who love God in spite of pain and hurt. Hurt can make us better but it can also make us bitter.
- It can drive us to God or build a wall between us and God.
- It can drive us inward to discover hidden strengths or to self-pity.
- It can drive us to love and help people or to be jealous of their good fortune and to actually hate them for having what we do not have.
Job’s wife, a sufferer too, who may have lost her faith, said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job. 2:9). Matthew Henry catches her meaning, “Is this a God to be loved and served?”
Mark Twain had little use for religion. When he told his daughter of a famous man he ate dinner with, she said, “Daddy. I’ll bet you know everybody but God.” His view of life proved it. He wrote that every year, millions who die, “scoff at the pitiful world and the useless universe and violent, contemptible human race.” Life’s sufferings, especially the death took his wife, drove him not just away from God, but against God. One of his last books was an attack upon Christianity. Twain wore his unbelief proudly; but beneath the pride was probably a lonely, broken heart. A poet puts it, “She set a rose to blossom in her hair/The day faith died/Now glad, she said, and free I go and life is wide. . ./But through long nights she stared into the dark/And knew she lied.” (Author Unknown)
We may never know why God sends or allows hurt to knock on our door; but we cannot bear the thought of life without Him or pain without purpose. And even if we do not get any answers, we know there is an answer, and we take His hand. And if we look closely, we see the scars of His sufferings on them. And if we look in his face, we see the One who said in extreme suffering, “My God, why?” His name is Jesus.
- The Speaker’s Quote