In the midsts of trials, God can seem very far off.
There are times in our lives where we lose sight of God’s promises to us. It is a very easy thing to say that “God is sovereign” and “all things work together for good,” but it is a very different thing to actually believe it in the middle of hardship. Although these statement are very much true and have always been so, they often leave our lips in times of peace and joy. It is easy to praise the Lord’s sovereignty in the peaks and mountain tops. He seems very close and the communion with Him is sweet and intimate. He calls us to Himself like the loving Father He is and we rest in His wonderful peace and grace. Yet as many know, the Christian life is often not spent in the grassy hilltops, but rather in the trenches, where it is cold, dirty and lonely. There are times in our lives when the pain seems to be too great and the promises of the Lord are but a sweet memory. It is times like this that the Lord can seem very far off. It is times like this that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty brings no amount of peace, but rather a realization that this trial is ultimately from God. The providence of God can look very dark and we are left to wonder, what is the purpose in the pain?
Scripture is full of afflicted Saints. We see the prophet Jeremiah weeping for the repentance of his people and never seeing a single convert. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, thrown in prison and left to rot. David was afflicted day and night by depression and fear. Job suffered more than perhaps any man (other than Christ) and endured his family being killed, his body decaying and his own wife telling him to “curse God and die.” Through all of these accounts we see trial after trial and pain upon pain. This is just the Old Testament. The New Testament is full of its suffering as well. We see John the Baptist in Herod’s prison cell, losing hope in the promised Messiah. We see the early Church martyrs, enduring torture and death for the sake of Christ. We see Paul, agonizing over the Church and praying that God would remove the thorn in his flesh. We see our Jesus in the garden, pleading with His Father to remove the poison cup that He knew had to be drank to the dregs. Even Christ on the cross screamed as through His Father had abandoned Him: why have You forsaken Me? Suffering can make God feel very far away.
Dear Christian, this life will have trouble. This life will have trials. This life will have pain. There are many times where the purpose is hidden and the end is nowhere in sight. There will be times where you do not understand the why. There will be times when you cry to the Lord like the Psalmist, “do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress!” (102:2)
Maybe you are in this season right now. Maybe this has been the constant prayer from your heart. If it is, I would like to remind you of perhaps a very obvious truth. Your Jesus is not far off. He is with you, right now, in the pain and heartache. He is walking with you through the storm and guiding you like the Great Shepherd He is. He is giving you the strength you need for the moment. Christ is your hope. Christ is your confidence and light in the darkness. When we keep our eyes on Christ, this momentary affliction will fade and become like nothing compared to the hope that is within us. Be encouraged by 2 Corinthians 4:8-17,
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Friend, this is the Gospel! We have been given such grace. When we compare our affliction to the glory that awaits us due to Christ, our pain becomes truly light. When we gaze into the wonder of the cross and glory in the fame of our Savior, what pain can be so strong that would cause us to doubt? Christian, your Savior is with you and He is preparing such a place, such a glorious home for His elect! This momentary affliction you are in is not unseen by God. It is refining you and molding you more into the image of your Savior. There is pain in the refinement, but strength is found in the embers. You are not alone. Christ is with you and you have nothing to fear.
When it seems like God is far away and His promises do not seem to bring comfort, hold tight to the hope that there is being prepared for you an eternal glory that is beyond your wildest imagination. Cling to Christ in your pain. He is there and He will bring to you a peace that passes all understanding. The affliction may be strong, but your Jesus is stronger. After all, He’s the King!