Have you ever felt that your life was like a roller coaster? You’re up one day, and then down the next as life seems to constantly toss you from side to side. Well, people in the 21stcentury aren’t the first ones to feel that way. Consider the patriarch Job. As you move through the Old Testament that bears his name, his monologues often fluctuate wildly from expressions of great faith in God’s attributes and His ability to work His will on the Earth to sometimes confusing questions concerning the Lord’s intentions and ultimate goals.
While Job acknowledged the purposeful design and personal interest the Creator took in forming him in his mother’s womb, he also wondered out loud why God seemed turn on a dime and stalk him ‘like a lion’ (Job 10:8-16). This anguished man’s vacillation spotlights a fundamental mistake many believers make. When people assume that the only evidences of God’s loving involvement in the lives of people are good fortune, health and success, they set themselves up for crushing disappointments and end up missing out on the deeper purposes He longs to accomplish through times of testing and trial.
Though Christ-followers may believe in their minds and confess with their mouths that God is in control of all things, we often unknowingly fall right into Job’s pattern of misinterpreting the Lord’s objectives and questioning His goodness when adversity and pain touch their lives. The New Testament addresses this limited thinking with assurances that God is still at work in even the worst situations, not necessarily to bring material prosperity, but instead to accomplish His will in us, in others and in the world. (Rom. 8:28, 1 Pet. 4:12-16; Jas. 1:2-4) Scripture even encourages us to “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom. 5:3-4) By contrasting these qualities with the transient and fleeting nature of what is usually valued by the world, we recognize that the truly valuable things in God’s economy most often come through adversity and discomfort.
Instead of copying the shortsighted attitudes of the world, a superior model for us can be seen in Jesus’ response to the suffering that He knew lay ahead of Him. While the immediate proximity of certain anguish troubled Him, He knew it was for the greater good. Assured of this, He prayed, “What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. “Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28)
While it’s impossible to fully know or understand God’s goals as well as Jesus did, we can still trust in what has been lovingly revealed in the scriptures: The Lord is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, full of love (Ps 103:8) and can always be counted on to provide “mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)