Many times when we are going through what we are going through, we are merely reaping some of what we sowed. That is, we were disobedient, did wrong and engaged in sinful practices and are now merely being made to bear some of the consequences of same. I say some of the consequences because by reason of our actions, we are deserving of death. It is only because of God’s mercy why we are still in the land of the living and have not been consumed.
While this is the case for most of us, in most cases, there are times when a person, though not perfect or sinless, does that which is right in the sight of the Lord, pleases him by the way he lives and how he conducts himself and where he has not done something wrong, yet he is made to suffer.
I say made to suffer because God is sovereign and nothing happens to anyone unless he allows it, even where the reason or reasons for same are unknown to us, as mere human beings.
The tendency of us as human beings is to jump to the conclusion when a person is facing adversity, especially when it is for a long period, that that person has done something wrong, has sinned in some way or that God is not pleased with them.
However, there are some people in situations, which though bad and painful, have not done something to deserve what they are going through and are not being made to go through it as any kind of punishment, as people tend to think.
How could that be possible, you might ask. Are you saying that a person could be pleasing God generally in their life, yet be made to go through suffering and deprivation? The answer is yes.
This has been demonstrated on different occasions in the Bible.
In Luke 1 for example, we are introduced to Zacharias, a priest and his wife Elisabeth, who, though they desired a child for many years, God chose to give them none. They therefore grew old and remained childless. This would have undoubtedly been painful, especially in the times that they lived when having children was considered to be a blessing from the Lord and a sign of his favour on the lives of the married couple. To some extent, this still exists today, especially among those who are believers.
It must have been shameful for the Elisabeth therefore in particular, as society frowned on a woman who could not bear her husband a child, although society had no way of knowing, whether the problem was the woman or the man. In Elisabeth’s case, the Bible says that she was barren, so the problem with infertility was with her. Yet, despite how much they prayed, no child was granted, them even reaching an old age and seemingly giving up on the dream that they had had in their younger days.
Yet, while society would have most likely thought that something was wrong in their life and in terms of their relationship with God and that sin must be the problem, it was not.
The Bible specifically states of them, speaking in high terms of commendation, that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now stricken in years.” (v.6).
God eventually intervened in their old age, letting Zacharias know through an angel that appeared to him, that the Lord had heard his prayer and that his wife would bear a son. True to his word (because God does not lie and is all powerful) a child was conceived and born to this wonderful couple.
It had not been a matter of their sin therefore, why God had kept Elisabeth’s womb shut for so many years of their marriage but of God’s timing. He had a time appointed for the son he planned to allow them to have, that child being born so as to fit in with his divine plan and purpose. This wonderful couple was allowed to be parents to John the Baptist, who was created by God to pave the way for Jesus’ ministry.
Then there is Job, who lost all his material possessions, children, health, the respect of the people around him and the trust of his friends. He was considered by his friends to have sinned grievously against God and therefore being made to suffer all that he had suffered and was still suffering, as a result of it. He was made to feel that he was making things worse by not confessing the sins that he must have knowledge that he had committed and he was told many hurtful things by those who claimed to care for him. Yet, although Job, his friends and his wife and all those around him, did not understand what was happening and why God had allowed the extent of his suffering and his friends therefore jumped to the conclusion that there was sin in his life for which he had not repented and that God was therefore displeased with him and had poured out his wrath against him, this was not at all the case.
In Job 1:1, the Word of God states of Job “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”
The Word of God goes further to state that so pleased was God with the life of this man, that he made a boast of him to Satan. In verses 6-8, it states:
- “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”
God was not just pleased with Job’s life but he considered him to be the only man on the face of the earth, that had reached to that standard of uprightness. In short, he had placed him as number one on his list of those whose conduct he was pleased with. Yet, in his sovereignty, he allowed Job to suffer tremendously and for an extended period of time, so that he could extract the glory, when Job still decided to serve him and not curse him.
People were therefore wrong in their estimations. Whereas they thought that he was under God’s wrath for great sins that he had committed and refused to confess, he was highly favoured of God and showcased by God as one of his trophies.
Joseph in the Old Testament was also made to go through a great deal of pain and suffering, in God’s sovereignty. He suffered such ordeals for so many years, that Christians looking on today, if they had not been given the full story in God’s Word, would have most likely concluded that he was being made to pay for his sins, that God was upset with him and that he had no favour from the Lord.
Yet, although Joseph was made to go low and experienced great pain in his life for many years, the Word of God states that God was with him.
Yes he was thrown in a pit by his brothers, suffered betrayal from them as his family, when they sold him as a slave to Ishmaelite’s and pocketed the money. Yes he was made to take the long journey to Egypt and when there was sold again to Potiphar where he served as a slave. Yes he was harassed for sex by Potiphar’s wife who, when he did not give in to her demands and ran away, then lied on him and caused her husband to Potiphar to have him imprisoned. Yes he spent several years in prison for something that he did not do. Even when he thought he had a chance of being taken out, after interpreting the dream of the chief butler and the chief baker and asking the chief butler to remember him when Pharoah released him from prison, this hope too was dashed. For, upon his release, the chief butler forgot all about him, until God was ready for Joseph to be released.
Joseph’s life and the story recorded of him is one marked by great suffering, yet, it was not due to his sins or God being displeased with him. We know this because the Word of God states categorically, when he was serving as a mere slave in Potiphar’s house:
- “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” (Genesis 39:2-3)
When he was made to go lower than even the position of a slave and put in prison as a prisoner, the Word of God states:
- “And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. BUT THE LORD WAS WITH JOSEPH, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison…the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.” (Genesis 39:20,23)
These true stories of the lives that men and women of God have lived prove therefore, that it is possible to please God in the life and still be called to suffer by God, in very painful ways. It is possible to have God’s favour in one’s life and still be misjudged by other Christian folk and looked down at. It is possible to be living for God and yet still encounter great trials, adversities, injustices and deprivation, where God withholds certain blessings that are our heart’s desire.
In all the examples looked at, the people who went through what they went through, would have experienced hurt but they remained faithful. This is key. None turned their back on God through their pain, no matter how many years they were made to bear it. Zacharias and Elisabeth continued to serve God faithfully, despite God having kept Elisabeth’s womb barren for all of the usual childbearing years and the shame that this must have cost them, as a married couple. Job continued to serve God faithfully, although all his children had been killed, in one day and he had lost all his riches, his health and the respect of those around him. When his wife urged him to curse God, he cast scorn on her advice, telling her, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” The Word of God state that “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10).
Later on, as his suffering continued and showed no signs of abating, although he felt hurt because he had lived his life always in the fear of the Lord and genuinely wished to understand why all that had befallen him had befallen him, although his friends taunted him with insults, adding pain to his already painful wounds, he mustered the strength to say, in a faith that refused to shrink, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him…” Job 13:15.
Joseph remained consistently faithful as well, to God, when in Egypt, whether in Potiphar’s house as a slave or in prison as a prisoner. He kept his faith in the Lord, as demonstrated through his consistently good work ethic, him understanding that even in his suffering, he was still a child of God and therefore needed to represent him by doing his very best, to those whom the Lord in his sovereignty had allowed to have authority over him. He did all of this, although he did not understand why he had been made to suffer so and his years in prison seemed wasted.
Yes he was pulled away from his father Jacob cruelly, did not get to see him for many years after that or his full-blooded brother Benjamin. Yes what his other brothers would have done to him and the thought that he might never get the chance to see his father again, on this side of life, must have weighed heavily on his mind. Yet, while he suffered grave injustices and felt the pain of what he was made to go through, he did not let go of his faith in God and of the fact that, even when baffled by life’s events, God was still on the throne and still in control. He was ever mindful that, even if we never understand on this side of life or ever, what in the world is happening to us and in our lives and we feel at our wit’s end and tired, God still has a plan and knows exactly what he is doing.
These examples of faithful men and women, who held on to their faithfulness despite what God allowed them to go through, reminds me of Isaiah 50:10. It states:
- “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and STAY upon his God.”
This is exactly what we as Christians must do, if we know that we have been doing that which is right in God’s sight but yet suffering blow after blow or shut doors that we wish, would open.
Are you serving God, being faithful, have no unconfessed sin of which you are aware and seeking each day to please him based on his Word the Bible? Despite all of this are you going through problem after problem, heartache after heartache, deprivation, shut doors, adversity or injustice? Are you confused, not understanding why all of this is happening and have no clue when all of it will end or if it ever will? Have you been made to suffer shame, ridicule and insults from people, who, not understanding why you are going through what they all know you have been going through, have labelled you as a failure and concluded that you have sinned and not confessed it to the Lord? Have they come to the conclusion that you have no favour or that something is wrong with you or that God is displeased with your life?
If pain, adversity and deprivation have been your story thus far, as it had been for Zacharias, Elisabeth, Job and Joseph, then the Bible which is God’s authoritative Word, tells you what you should do. No matter what you are being made to bear and what people think, when you don’t understand why, trust in the name of the Lord Jesus and STAY upon your God.
Don’t backtrack or back peddle. Don’t stray or become distant. Don’t stop believing in God or think that he doesn’t care or is unrighteous in his dealings and become bitter and resentful. Be faithful to the end, even if it seems that you will reap nothing on this side of life for it and God chooses to not let you understand why all that has happened to you, has happened and perhaps is still happening.
In his pain and confusion, Joseph still blazed the name of his God wherever he went, while going through his valley experience. Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, the prison keeper, the chief butler and chief baker and eventually Pharoah were all told about his God or observed him operating in his life. In everything he went through, including the time when he revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt, his answer to everything, was God. God was always on his lips because God was always in his heart and no earthly situation or suffering was mighty enough to break that.
Be like Joseph. Be like Job. Be like Zacharias and Elisabeth, who, although their hopes of having a child were dashed, to the point where they had grown old and had most likely given up on the dream, they continued to faithfully do God’s work. People looking on may have thought them to be foolish, serving God for all those years, asking him for a child and yet, getting nothing. Yet, they continued to serve, even if they were most likely convinced that they would never have the joyful experience of ever being parents.
No matter how low in the valley you are or how dark the place you occupy, no matter how tired you are and frustrated and how badly you want things to change or even of how shameful your situation looks, which you never seem to get out of, be faithful. Be faithful irrespective of the outcome. And if perchance, God decides to grant you deliverance or that breakthrough that you seek in this lifetime (as he did in his perfect timing and after they had suffered for some time, in the story of Job, Joseph, Zacharias and Elisabeth), you will have a beautiful testimony, as they did, which redounds to HIS honour and glory.
In closing, we spoke of your suffering, the sovereignty of God through it all and your need to remain faithful with a good attitude, instead of giving in to the devil and becoming distant from God because of the pain of what you are being made to bear. For God is able to succour you through it all, for whatever period of time he has designated for you to go through whatever it is you are going through, whether this be for a lifetime on this side of life or for a fixed period of time.
In this regard, 1 Peter 5:6-11, pretty much sums up everything discussed, in terms of what you should do in your suffering. This scripture states:
- “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
(Written on 16th November, 2023)