Have you had 'hard thoughts' about God? Have you been tempted to resent Him for your troubles? 'How could you, God? I put my faith in You and look what it got me. I trusted You and look what I’m going through. None of this hardship would be happening if it wasn’t for You.' The issue is not the trials we face. The issue is not God, who allows the trials. The issue is the sin within our hearts. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15) In our trials, we will either trust the goodness of God, or we will fall to temptation and blame God. To follow our own evil desires rather than trust the absolute goodness of God is to walk a deadly path that only and always leads to eternal separation from Him.
God doesn’t want that to happen! So the very next words from James remind us of God’s goodness to us: "Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created." (James 1:16-18) Every good and perfect gift from above includes not only your life and all material blessings, but also the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, given into death for you, and the gift of faith, worked in you through His Word, to give you the blessings of forgiveness and eternal life. All this and more come from your heavenly Father who is unchanging in His goodness to you. He continually loves you in spite of your daily sins, and He continually forgives you freely and fully as you come to Him. So no matter what you face, WHEN TEMPTED TO BLAME GOD, REMEMBER TO PRAISE HIM.
What kind of children will you have if parents don’t allow them to face, endure, or work through difficulties? They will likely be weak, spoiled, lazy, entitled, and immature. And how would we turn out if God didn’t allow us to face, endure, or work through the harsh realities of life? This is why God says through His servant James, "Count it all joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4) There’s another side to consider, especially when tempted to question God in trying times: What kind of parents do you have who don’t allow their children to face, endure, or work through difficulties? And what kind of God do you have if He doesn’t allow you to face, endure, or work through the harsh realities of life?
But we need to go back to this: "Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds." That might seem irrational, offensive, even cruel. (Many have judged God as such.) But the joy is that God loves you so much that He will not allow you to become weak, spoiled, lazy, entitled, or immature. He allows trials in your life to draw you to Himself and to produce in you a mature and steadfast reliance on Him. Your God and Savior is greater than all your trials! Notice He says, "Count it all joy," not 'Count it all enjoyable.' God does not downplay your sorrow and pain in trials. No, He knows what it’s like! It was not enjoyable for Jesus to be mocked, beaten, and crucified. But He stepped into humanity to take upon Himself our sin, the ultimate cause of all our pain and sorrow. Here’s a glimpse into God’s heart: "For the JOY set before Him [He] endured the cross, scorning its shame." (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus considered it all joy to save you, even though it meant dying on the cross! Look to Jesus and see that THERE IS JOY IN YOUR TRIALS.
Has the awesomeness of God gradually faded for you? Has your attention to your great and glorious God been drawn to other things that have become more awesome, more important to you? Has 'church' become merely the building you go to…or used to go to? A pattern results when we lose the awesomeness of God: First we lose our sense of God’s Law, then our sensitivity to sin, then our need for repentance, then our love for the Gospel, then our commitment. If we tracked our lives, we would see that we’ve been guilty of this pattern at times. But God doesn’t stand idly by as we find our awe in other things rather than in Him, the God who saves.
The prophet Isaiah was sent to call people back to the awe of God, and his message still speaks today. (Isaiah 6:1-8) He was given an awesome vision of the Lord upon His throne with angels calling out, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." To say God is "holy" is to say He is set apart and above us in every way. So when Isaiah sees the Lord, he cries out, "Woe to me! I am ruined!" Any thought of standing before God with a claim of 'I’ve been a pretty good person' absolutely melts in the light of this vision. You know the "woe" Isaiah feels; you know your holy-holy-holy God deserves so much more than your sin-tainted efforts could ever give Him. But then the amazing happens: An angel touches Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar saying, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." You too have been touched with a forgiveness that takes your guilt away and declares you at-one with God. It comes from the cross of Christ, the altar of supreme sacrifice. This sacrifice means that you are not ruined; you are saved! Behold: As awesome as the Lord’s holiness is, His grace and mercy are equally awesome! This changes us from unworthiness to a willingness to answer God’s call to serve as Isaiah did: "Here I am. Send me!" NEVER LOSE YOUR AWE OF GOD.
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.