A friend of mine is going through a tough time. See, they are up to their elbows in struggle and frustration and they can’t seem to climb their way out. What makes it worse is that they continue to pray…and so far God has been silent. And he turned to me last time we were together and asked, “Why does life have to be so hard?”
Why does life have to be so hard? Man, that is a question that is on my heart lately with several friends in the midst of struggles. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that: “We are afflicted but not crushed.” But why you ask? Paul answers, “So that we may bear witness to the life of Jesus.” Wait, wait, wait, wait. We are afflicted so that we can represent Jesus better? Does Jesus have something to do with my suffering?
Well, yes and no. We are told that God only works for the good of his people, but His heart for transformation allows us to be shaped by outside influences on our journey towards Him. So God doesn’t “cause” bad things to happen but he can still use these events to shape us for His good. Sound tricky? You bet. This same problem of cause and effect and struggling to understand why things happen plagues me as I read through Job. Job was a man after God’s own heart, but when Satan proposes a test for Job to see if Job could still praise God when his life was turned upside down, God says okay. The message says it like this: “Go ahead- do what you with all that is his (Job’s). Just don’t hurt him.”
Seems like a cruel game right? Seems like somehow God should protect Job more. And yet, listen again to what God says, “Just don’t hurt him.” Job’s possessions, material wealth, physical health, and yes, even his family are fair game for Satan’s test… but not Job’s inner self.
Does God delight in suffering? No, not the God of the bible revealed in Jesus Christ. What we learn of God from Jesus shows that God only wants to love us and draw us closer to His heart and His purposes. And yet, we live in a world where bad things happen, where children die, where sickness spreads and takes thousands of children in parts of Africa each day, where governments of oppression subdue people with force. And yet, the God of the bible tells us He will protect us. Maybe not our stuff, or even our physical situations, but he will protect our heart and our inner self.
So as Paul says, “therefore we do not lose heart.” Though we toil and get battered in this life, there is a deeper hope that we are children of a God who loves and protects us. Paul writes, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” CS Lewis called this “the weight of glory.”
Through trouble befalls us, we are being renewed not just when we die, but DAY BY DAY. Every single day we have the chance to draw closer to the Lord, to know this Love firsthand in our lives and use it as our strength. Though we are on a journey through life where we have real troubles that hurt and confound us, we are to have hope that our lives are building something beautiful, something that is measurable and true. The eternal glory that far outweighs all the struggles. And so while we have hope in this weight of glory, we have to wait for glory to be revealed. It is the waiting for the weight that is so hard. But our hope lies in the fact that as we live out God’s love with our life, God promises to renew us day by day. Take heart, in the midst of difficulties, and know your Father in heaven is proud of you and that someday, you will meet Him and know the depth of the eternal glory of Heaven. This is why we wait and seek Him day after day after day in our lives. In the end, it will all be worth it. I promise you.