Just a few days ago, my wife and I received an email from a dear sister in Christ. A tragedy had befallen her family, and she was asking for prayers. But in the process of asking for prayer, she described her confidence and faith in the kind providence of God. I was brought to tears.
Mary (not her real name) holds a special place in my heart. I can’t remember fighting so hard for someone’s soul, as I did for hers, so many years ago now. She was then, oppressed by demons. But in marvelous grace, the scriptures I quoted to her broke every stronghold, claimed her soul and delivered her into the loving arms of Jesus. Here is a story unlike any I have known.
Since those early days of her faith, I have watched as she has become a mature woman of God. But I have also watched as she has suffered. Once, it was the death of her brother. Another time, an evil pastor attempted to abuse her. Still another time it was her walk through serious illness. And now, came this note. Another tragedy. I wept for her.
But as Kathy (my wife) and I read her email, I was overwhelmed at how familiar she was in the scripture, how clearly she saw the providence of God, and how ready she was to minister grace to the hurting. Her’s is the kind of faith that burns brighter when the winds blow stronger.
I have often marveled at this phenomenon. To some, the reality of suffering leads them to question and even abandon God. And still, to others, the very same reality grows their faith. To put the matter another way, “what are those who lose their faith during suffering missing?”
I think they are missing 3 things.
1) They haven’t grasped the reality of Colossians 1:17. “In Christ, all things hold together.” That is to say, they haven’t grasped that there are no random, purposeless, and chance events. As one author said, “There is not one rogue particle in the universe.” Christ, continuously wills all things that exist. Instead of seeing this reality, those who quickly lose their faith have not grasped that all of life is controlled by God.
2) They haven’t grasped the reality of Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” It is important to understand that the good of which Paul speaks is the eternal long-term good, and not the temporal good. God makes no promises that we can have our best life now. Cancer, death of a loved one, loss of status, financial reversals are all a part of God’s tool kit in order to shape the best possible good for eternity. We have been created to rule and reign with Christ, and Christ will order all things in our lives to maximize this long-term good. We may not yet see how this would be, but we trust that an all-powerful and benevolent God is so ordering matters in our lives. But those who quickly fall in times of trial have not embraced this.
3) They haven’t grasped the reality of Romans 8:23–24. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” God intends that the Christian life be seen as a future hope, not a realization of a present fulfillment.
When these three realities are missing, it is only a short period of time, when the faith of the individual who lacks them, is dashed to pieces. But when these three realities are present, it is only a matter of time, before the faith of the individual grows to great strength.