Have you ever asked, “Why is this happening?” or, “What’s going on?” or, “What am I going to do?” Have you ever thought, “This situation is hopeless” or, “This circumstance is beyond help”? Then you might be able to appreciate the circumstances of Joseph when he was sold into slavery, and Israel when they were penned in between the Red Sea and a ferocious Egyptian army, and Daniel when he was thrown into a den of lions, or Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. In those cases, we understand that the Lord might have intervened earlier to prevent from happening each of the predicaments recorded. In fact, in the last instance, inspiration pointedly suggests that Jesus might have prevented the death of His friend had he wished to do so: “When he [Jesus] had heard therefore that he [Lazarus] was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:6). These and many other events recorded in Scripture demonstrate the fact that oftentimes God not only passively permits untoward circumstances to disrupt our lives but actively orders them. But why might He do so?
1) To remind us that circumstances provide no deliverance. Try as we might, we often find ourselves trusting in the arm of the flesh. Our kneejerk reaction to many calamities is to count our resources or tote up our possible avenues for escape. Financial problems cause us to assess our bank accounts; physical problems drive us to a doctor. That is not to say that we should disdain the use of natural resources to remedy natural problems, but it is to suggest that God may be at work reminding us that such resources provide no remedy apart from His grace. Difficult circumstances are intended to elicit this testimony from us: “Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains” (Jer. 3:23a). “Vain is the help of man” (Psa. 60:11; 108:12).
2) To remind us to rest in Him. Try as we might, we often find ourselves growing complacent, careless, and presumptuous. When things run smoothly for any length of time, we soon find ourselves resting in those things. Lack of conscious need often leads to lack of conscious trust. We are certainly not blessed and the Lord is decidedly not glorified when there is never a ripple, much less a surging wave, of difficulty as we float down the river of life. But let a trial come, and we quickly remember that “God is our refuge and strength” (Psa. 46:1) and that “truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel” (Jer. 3:23b). He alone is worthy of our trust, and He alone can provide true rest.
3) To remind us that trials bless us and glorify Him. Not every trial results in temporal deliverance. In many cases, it pleases the Lord to allow His children to remain under great burdens and to continue to suffer afflictions. And until the time of the rapture, every believer will pass through the trying fires of death. God has calibrated trials in order to bless His own. It is in such times that we learn what is really important and precious. It is at such times that we come to know who the Lord is and to fellowship with Him in ways far deeper and more wonderful than times of ease could teach. And at such times, the Lord is glorified as He reveals that His grace is not only sufficient to sustain us but to enable us to rejoice in Him and the circumstances He has ordained for us (see II Cor. 12:9, 10).
4) To remind us that He is strong in deliverance. Sometimes the Lord is pleased to deliver us in a mighty way. When we are backed into a corner from which there is no escape and all options have been exhausted, the Lord provides a mighty deliverance that demonstrates His power, love, and grace so that we can say with David, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (II Sam. 22:2). He is a God who delights to save us and to demonstrate that nothing is too hard for Him. What a privilege it is to be an instrument used of God to manifest that work.
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