It is the easiest thing in the world to say, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord’, when all is well with you and yours. When life is sweet, when your children are trusting in Christ, when your church is united and loving, when your spouse loves and cherishes you, when your health is fine, and when all your hopes are being realized–then it is easy to sing, ‘What’er my God ordains is right.’
But when life is hard, you lose your job, you are disappointed in a loving relationship, when cherished hopes lie in the dust, when your church is in strife, when your children are suffering, and when you see the way of the wicked prospering and the righteous are suffering, then it is not so easy to ‘humble yourself under God’s almighty hand’ (1 Peter 5:6).
In Romans 8:19, Paul speaks about ‘the suffering of this present time.’ He is reminding the Christians in Rome that the way of the believer in this present fallen world is the way of suffering. It is at the same time a way of glory, but a glory shot through with suffering. Why? Because the Christian way is the way of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. His way was a way of unrelieved suffering. He describes the whole course of his life as ‘the time of my testings/temptations’ (Luke 22:28). He was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3). And the servant is not greater than his Master!
Because we live in a fallen world, still in fallen and sinful bodies, we cannot escape the marks of our fallenness. Those marks are many. There is the hostility of a fallen world toward the children of God, the blood brothers and sisters of God’s own Son. There is the present pull and seduction of remaining sin. There is the reality of a disintegrating body, disintegrating not because of the tendency of all things moving toward disorder, but because the wages of sin is death.
Undergirding all this is the sovereign, wise, and inscrutable will and purpose of our loving heavenly Father. It is the same good Shepherd who leads His chosen and precious flock by green pastures and still waters, who is also pleased to lead them through the valley of the shadows of death. God’s ways are not our ways–thanks be to God for that. Faith submits itself under God’s almighty, but ever gracious hand. It may do so with tears, but it will still do so. Here we have no continuing city. Here the outward man is still perishing.
But one day, ordained by God from times eternal, all will be revealed. No longer will we see through a glass darkly; we will see HIM face to face and all will be made clear. Here we live by faith, trusting at times wholly in the dark. But one day faith will give way to wondering sight of Him. So hold on. Look up. And have faith in God.
– Ian Hamilton