Sometimes I struggle with God when things happen that don’t make spiritual sense to me. I’m not talking about the times when I want something and he doesn’t give it to me, but the times when difficult things happen to effective kingdom workers around the world.
Recently, we lost one of our global leaders after a battle with cancer. She was a force for the gospel. Many can point to her influence in their lives as pivotal to their faith and ministry. God’s “no” to the 1000s of prayers lifted up for her recovery goes beyond my understanding. What do you do when you experience this kind of disappointment with God?
Facing a Furnace
The Holy Spirit brings me to two places in scripture. First, I find myself with Daniel’s friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – most commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – facing the furnace stoked with fire so hot it killed the guards next to it. When given the choice to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol or be killed, their response convicts me. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 (NIV)
“But even if he does not …” means that our trust in the God who loves us goes deeper than our circumstance – even one facing death. It demonstrates a faith that remains even when our understanding fails. I have not fully grasped this but aspire to grow into that kind of dependence.
Promise of Peace
Then, I find myself in the upper room with Jesus and the twelve as he is giving them his final words. After again telling them that he is leaving, Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV). Jesus didn’t promise us a life of ease, but he did promise us peace in trouble. How? We are in him, and he has overcome the world!
We should not expect that God will keep us from hard things, even suffering and death, but that he will be always with us, in all places, and within every circumstance. “I am with you always, even to the very end of the age” is our assurance of his peaceful, empowering presence. Live in that assurance each day.