“Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Many of us may not be quite so bold in stating it, but we have felt a similar despair, even desperation, as Job expressed in his two famous laments (Job 5:7; 14:1). And the reality is that this life consists of large quantities of burdens and trials. At times we feel threatened that we’ll be consumed by these difficulties. To deny that trials are sometimes frequent and often heavy is to deny the reality of a world that has been ravaged by the consequences of sin. We should find it refreshing, then, that God is no Pollyanna spouting positive platitudes in the teeth of devastating difficulties. Nor is He incarnate in our modern charismatic evangelists offering false hope through false promises.
Everywhere we turn in the Word of God, we are offered an unvarnished picture of reality. We have already mentioned Job as the quintessential example. But a quick glance anywhere reveals similarly trying circumstances. Noah’s name is synonymous with devastation. Abraham, the father of the faith, did not escape trials. He nearly lost his wife—twice. He waited a lifetime for an heir. His property, servants, and family were attacked by marauders; he was never able to put down roots anywhere. His carnal nephew Lot was a constant thorn in his side. He was asked to slay his own son. Of Jacob’s many trials, we will mention only two: he lost his favorite son, Joseph, and was forced by famine to leave his land and home for Egypt. As for Jacob’s son, Joseph, his name is synonymous with trials as much as is Job’s. All this, and we haven’t left the first book of the Bible. All this, and we are talking about God’s people.
The truth is that, for many, trials are the rule rather than the exception. Yet it is the nature of our flesh, particularly when confronted by severe trials, to feel cut off and isolated, to feel as if we have been dealt a unique blow. The New Testament assures us otherwise: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man” (I Cor. 10:13). These words were penned by a man who had been stoned, beaten, imprisoned, repeatedly run out of towns by malicious mobs, shipwrecked, and more. Yet, he did not see his trials as unique.
But it was not the common thread of suffering that all must endure that Paul intended to be our ultimate comfort; it was this rock-solid certainty: “BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL.” Yes, sin has visited dire consequences on the human race, including believers. Yes, suffering is real, sometimes severe, sometimes lengthy. “BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL.” The trials and suffering are real, they cannot overcome the reality of God’s faithfulness.
Paul goes on to explain what he means by God’s faithfulness in trying circumstances: “who will not suffer [“allow”] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But Paul’s (and every believer’s) anchor rests not in God’s methods and means, which may vary from case to case, but in the changeless character of God. “GOD IS FAITHFUL,” first of all, to Himself. In that truth lies great comfort. For in being faithful to Himself, He always and only does what is good, and right, and holy, and just, and perfect. Second, then, He is faithful to us in the same way so that we may rest in the certainty that what He does is intended for our ultimate good. We see from the pages of Scripture that that was true for the saints of God whose lives have been recorded in holy writ. It is no less true for us, though we, like they, may not be able to discern either God’s goodness or His purpose at any given moment. Nevertheless, “GOD IS FAITHFUL.”
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