The Ever-Recurring Trial--
Am I to Blame?
|Copyright © 2005 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Bring On the Blame Game
When you go through difficult times, experience loss, suffer persecution, succumb to illness, or are overshadowed by trials, sooner or later a well-meaning friend will tell you it is your fault. Your fault that the trials do not come to a speedy end, or your fault the same trial keeps recurring in your life.
How is it your fault? These friends will tell you it is your fault because you did not properly handle the last trial well enough and God is determined to teach you some specific lesson, even if it means going through the same trial a hundred times. In short, they are saying that God is judging you because you refuse to learn and to grow.
One sad Christian was experiencing trial upon trial, not necessarily exactly the same trial over-and-over, but new ones coming upon the old ones before the previous ones had even concluded. A zealous, but unstudied, Christian acquaintance pulled him aside one day and said, "You know, your trials are coming on you because you never learned your lesson from the first ones. God is gonna whip you until you repent and you do whatever it is He wants from you. When you do, God will bless you like Heís blessed me and your trials will stop."
Bad Theology Generates Bad Counsel
Ignorance of the Scriptures is a certain way to provide ignorant counsel. When approached with counsel such as, "God is judging you for your unrepentant heart, that is why you have so many trials in your life," consider asking in response, "Would you please quote me the Scripture passage from which this counsel flows?"
No one knows the motives of menís hearts but God alone, and no one knows the thoughts or motives of God, except God alone (1 Corinthians 2:11). No one should presume to be able to tell one man the motive which drives God to work with one man one way, and with another man in another way.
Still, the question lingers: Is it true that I go through more trials than other Christians, or the same trial over-and-over, because I did not handle the last trial well enough?
If indeed someone, such as a friend, has told you that your trials are a result of Godís judgment on your sin and that continued trials are indicative of your ongoing disobedience, then you have much in common with how Jobís friends handled the same question. Job, the most righteous man on Earth in his day (more righteous than his own friends), went through the worst trials he could have imagined. He lost his children, then his wealth, and finally even his health. As he sat destitute, ill, and grieving in the dust, three of his friends came to him, accompanied by one younger man named Elihu. Presumably Elihu was to look after the provisions for the other three, or perhaps he was a relative of one of the three friends, all we know for certain is that he was not actually a friend of Job.
After doing so very well as genuine friends by keeping silent watch with Job for days at a time, the three friends finally succumbed to speculation. "Job, maybe you have so many trials because you have unconfessed sin in your life, God is judging you and you must honor that judgment by fixing your faults. God does not send trials like these unless it is to judge sins." In other words, your trials are so fearsome, Job, because you never learned your lesson the first time and God is trying to get your attention.
Job reacted to these numerous assaults on his character by telling his friends he was essentially perfect and that God had made a mistake in judging him guilty of sin. Of course, neither Job nor his friends were correct. As Elihu finally pointed out in Job 36:25-33, God hands out trials for His own secret reasons and man is not permitted to explain the why because the why is beyond his comprehension.
"ÖGod is greater than man. ĎWhy do you complain against Him that He does not give an account of all His doings?í " (Job 33:12b-13)
God Himself labels as "dark counsel" speculations about His motives and manís improper assumptions about His judgements upon the earth (Job 38:2).
Being so bold as to assume a man may know why God does what He does, or why He gives out trials, is the sin of arrogance and ignorance, speaking falsely about God through lack of knowledge. Then Elihu pointed out, "And if you donít believe me, here comes God now to confirm what I have said." God arrives in the belly of a storm and uses a whirlwind as His stage. God verbally confirms all that Elihu said and much more. God condemns the false words of Jobís three friends and the accusations which Job himself uttered; God refers to their erroneous explanations of Godís motives as "counsel without knowledge."
Rather than necessarily being a sign of continued rebellion or disobedience, trials come because God loves us (Hebrews 12:6). His goal is to treat us as His beloved children (Hebrews 12:8). He disciplines us to make us grow in understanding, in love, in joy, in patience, and in righteousness, in fact, in all the fruits of the Sprit (Hebrews 12:11). Discipline is more than mere punishment for wrong, it is all training for improved strength and endurance (Hebrews 12:7, James 1:3). Coaches put their trainees though all manner of disciplines to grow their worthiness as competitors, not to punish them.
Trials as Consequences of Sin
Without a doubt, some trials are a result of punishment. Elihu describes how God brings withering ailments on some men so as to induce them to repentant prayer and conduct, though only God knows which men and which illnesses are for that purpose (Job 33:16-30). We, as mere men, will likely never know which ones. Perhaps the sufferer can make a good educated guess and then repent accordingly. However, no one else will likely know, and speculation is simply wrong as the retelling of Jobís history demonstrates.
In other examples, trials are nothing more than the natural outworking of previous sins, from ourselves or from others. As Christians, even if we confess our sins, sometimes the consequences of our sin remain in the form of trials. Thieves may have to go to jail. Fornicators may have to deal with AIDS or venereal diseases. Speeders may get their drivers licenses revoked. Certainly we must handle these trials well, just as we would any other trials, however these are trials that God wants us to avoid in the first place (1 Peter 2:20). These are not punishments from God so much as they are the normal end result of bad choices or improper thought.
For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Peter 2:19-20)
Examine yourself. Test yourself. Have you sinned without confessing it? Are you purposely avoiding repenting before God? If your conscience is clear (though that itself may not exonerate you) you must now rely on Godís leading to point out the sin (1 Corinthians 4:4). Stop beating yourself up and wait for Him to reveal any additional sin. Until then, you must assume the trial is an inscrutable part of Godís master plan and deal with the trial in a righteous manner.
Righteously Handling All Trials
How should one deal with trials righteously?
It may not be the fault of a person that they experience trials, but it does become their responsibility to handle it with righteousness.
Christ Endured Hostility as an Example for Us to Consider
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."
It Is for Discipline as Sons that You Endure
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
All Discipline for the Moment Seems Not to be Joyful, but It Yields Righteousness
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:3-13)
Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice. (Proverbs 16:8)