Have You Ever Asked - Why Doesn't God Do Something?
Peter F Grainger
Are you going through your own "valley of the shadow of death" (Ps. 23:4)? Don't despair! Cast all your cares upon God, who allows trials for our good.
You're battling a sore trial. Nothing seems to be going right. You ask, "Why me?" You're thinking: I'm the only Christian fighting this problem. No one else is plagued by this affliction. Most of your friends don't seem to be concerned. And those who try to help aren't helping. "Oh, God," you cry out, "why don't you do something?" Every Christian will face this situation sooner or later. All of us will suffer sore trials in our lives. For some, it is a health problem. For others, it could be an economic or marital problem. Still others are fighting a lifelong battle against drug addiction, emotional depression or a major character weakness. Maybe your greatest trial is the lack of career advancement. One common question surfaces during a personal spiritual struggle: "What did I do to deserve all this?" That question is usually followed by: "No one cares. Even God doesn't seem to notice my hardship." When we voice these thoughts during a sore trial, we are experiencing doubts and questions that all of God's servants down through history have endured at one time or another. Our tribulations are not unique, isolated cases (I Pet. 5:9).
All face trials
The way to the Kingdom of God is strewn with hardships and obstacles. "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God," wrote the apostle Paul (Acts 14:22). "Many are the afflictions of the righteous," promised David (Ps. 34:19). Throughout history, God's loyal, obedient servants have suffered personal crises and hard trials in their lines of duty. Jeremiah wrote: "I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.... Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer.... My enemies without cause hunted me down like a bird" (Lam. 3:1, 8, 52). Notice the psalmist's words: "In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord... will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever?... Has God forgotten to be gracious?" (Ps. 77:2, 7-9). John the Baptist began to doubt when in prison: "And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'" (Luke 7:19). Yes, some of God's greatest servants became impatient while enduring difficult trials. Some temporarily lost faith and began questioning their heavenly Father's love. None of us are so small or so great that we are exempt from having to learn the lesson that the "times" and "seasons" are in the hands of our God (Acts 1:7), whether He is dealing with a major world event or our own personal trials. But why does almighty God leave us in some major trials for a long time? God's Word, written "for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4), suggests various reasons why Christians encounter hardships in this life. Let's examine some of them.
To test our conversion
God wants to know, frankly, if we are just flash-in-the-pan Christians. After our initial actions of receiving God's truth, repenting of sin and being baptized, do we continue obeying God faithfully? Or "when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word [God's commandments]," are we offended? (Matt. 13:21). God is investing much time, energy and love in training us for high positions as kings and priests in His coming Kingdom (Rev. 5:10, 20:6). He needs to know if we will be loyal to Him through the good and the bad times. That's the reason God often allows tests during the early days of our conversion, "after you were illuminated" (see Hebrews 10:32-33). When you begin to obey God, former friends may shun you (I Pet. 4:4). God might allow this trial so He may see if we love His way more than our former friends (Luke 14:26). God's method of proving His people is not new. Hear what He did to Israel: "The Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" (Deut. 8:2). God chastises us out of love. These tests help develop holy character in us (Heb. 12:6, 10). How should we respond? "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God [after we continued faithful to Him through thick and thin], you may receive the promise" (Heb. 10:35-36).
To uncover hidden sins
Sometimes a major trial overtakes us years after our initial conversion. Even after we have sincerely repented of past sins (Acts 2:38) and regularly examined our Christian conduct (II Cor. 13:5), we may still encounter major problems — for example, major health or family problems. It could be because of a major character weakness that we don't know about! Consider the patriarch Job. Even God stated that Job was "a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8). Yet this "upright" man lost his wealth, livestock, his sons and his servants all in one day. Shortly thereafter Job lost his health and peace of mind when Satan was allowed to strike him with boils all over his body. Why this terrible affliction? Because Job was a rotten sinner who refused to repent? No! Job acknowledged his sins (Job 7:20-21, 31:33) — that is, the sins that he saw within himself. However, God saw within Job a secret fault of self-righteousness — a sin that needed to be rooted out and destroyed (Job 33:9, 32:1, 35:2). Job wasn't aware of his great spiritual weakness. So God allowed this severe trial to teach Job that his self-righteousness blocked his further understanding and appreciation of God's will and glory. Sometimes God allows havoc in our lives because we need to see ourselves as we really are and realize it's time to "go on to perfection" (Heb. 6:1). Notice that Job didn't give up. He continued to trust in God: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). Job sought answers: "How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgressions and my sin" (verse 23). God answered Job! At the right time and in the right way God spoke to the heart of the matter, identifying Job's spiritual problem and offering a solution. And when Job repented of his hidden sin (Job 42:1-6), God immediately forgave and blessed His servant abundantly.
To witness to others
Sometimes God requires a Christian to serve faithfully in trying circumstances in order to teach others about God's existence and authority. Remember Daniel's sore trial? Daniel believed so fervently in the daily practice of prayer that he disobeyed a royal Persian order that prohibited citizens for 30 days from asking petitions from their gods (Dan. 6:7, 10). As a result, Daniel was sentenced to be thrown into a den of lions. Almighty God knew Daniel had the faith and courage to live through this horrifying experience. God showed His love and might by sending an angel to shut the lions' mouths (verse 22). King Darius saw this mind-shattering witness of God's concern and power with his own eyes (verse 23). This event so humbled this powerful pagan king of Persia that he wrote to all his subjects: that they must fear the God of Daniel (verses 25-27). When God knows we can endure (I Cor. 10:13), He may allow us to suffer a sore trial in order to trumpet a powerful witness to our relatives, our bosses or our neighbors who might be persecuting or otherwise making our lives miserable. Let's patiently trust God until He sends help in these situations (Prov. 3:5-6). This gives our heavenly Father a glorious opportunity to show the unconverted that He exists and does intervene in the lives of humans.
To develop our patience and faith
Severe trials teach us to look to God, to develop the habit of waiting for God's answer. That's why we glory in tribulation! We know that "tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope" (Rom. 5:3-4, Authorized Version). The Bible prophesies horrifying, violent times ahead (Matt. 24:21). Mankind will become increasingly blasphemous, "without natural affection" and "despisers of those that are good" (II Tim. 3:2-3, AV). When God allows a family member or fellow worker to continue despising or persecuting us, we are being toughened up spiritually. If we learn to be kind to our enemies (Matt. 5:44) and endure, we become strengthened spiritually. And God promises to supply the assistance we need to endure any hardship (I Cor. 10:13). Therefore we can rejoice — we can "count it all joy" (ouch!) when we fall into various trials (Jas. 1:2). You may have lost your job, your family, your wealth or your friends because of persecution. If so, you know how Joseph felt! In one fell swoop, poor Joseph lost everything — job, wealth and reputation — because of a false accusation by his employer's wife (Gen. 39:7-20). Although unjustly imprisoned for two years and completely isolated from his family, Joseph never gave up believing God (Gen. 40:8). Joseph finally regained his freedom and a job — a promotion to second in power in the Egyptian empire (Gen. 41:40, 43)! The Bible indicates that all of God's true servants — those who qualified for God's Kingdom — ultimately endured, obediently and faithfully, their horrendous hardships and terrible trials. What was their secret?
Endure to the end
How did God's faithful servants overcome their trials? First, they accepted sore trials as part of their calling (Prov. 24:16). Second, they understood that becoming perfect in obedience to God requires a degree of suffering. In this world, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12). Even Jesus Christ "learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8). Third, they believed God is always in control (Job 1:21, John 19:11, Matt. 28:18). Fourth, they lived by faith (II Cor. 5:7), and their faith stood strong in God's promises Dan. 3:17, Rom. 4:20-21). Let's follow their example and never give up the Christian way of life because of sore trials. Even if we walk through our own "valley of the shadow of death," we can believe that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). We belong to a select group of people — God's begotten children. No one can pluck us out of our Father's hand (John 10:29). God will finish the work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6). Therefore, let's endure to the end, confident that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6)!