NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It is a wondrous experience when God begins to infuse peace and hope into our hearts in the days and years following new birth. But when a hurricane strikes or the economy tumbles — or any problem threatens to take a toll on our well-being — a troublesome bit of doubt can arise.
While we are thankful for the grace God has imparted to our souls, many of us wonder what it would be like if a looming problem were to take away our livelihood and thrust us into financial ruin. We sometimes wonder how traumatized we would be if a doctor were to relay a diagnosis of ominous illness or if, in an instant, we were to suffer a debilitating injury.
Many others, meanwhile, know what it is like. They have experienced it.
When prayer encounters hardship (whether real or induced by worry), it becomes very personal. We ask God such questions as: Will you truly take care of me? Yes, you’ve changed my life, but in the worst-case scenario, will I have food to eat? Will I have shelter or will I be left homeless? Will I have family and friends or will I be alone?
When physical ailments buffet our bodies, we may turn to God in our uncertainty and ask: Will I be able to walk despite the pain in my body, or put on my clothes? Will I be able to see if my eyes continue to decline?
Only rarely do we have an opportunity to ask a close friend who has weathered an ordeal: Did God really provide? Otherwise, we don’t tend to hear of people who have renounced their faith in deep disappointment or anger toward God. Yet we wonder: Did God take care of them? Or are they just keeping quiet, not wanting to tell others that their faith had been folly?
Our doubts, despite the many glories of faith, are ever-persistent, much like the penchant of the ancient Israelites to stray from their faith even after witnessing momentous moments of God’s revelation.
Perhaps from time to time we ponder the passage from Matthew 5:45 in which Jesus states that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Whether it may seem fair or not, the forces of nature as well as the pleasures and hardships of the physical world are inherent facets of daily life.
In responding to each day’s circumstances, however, the believer has a wider range of options, each connected to the redemptive purposes of God.
In times of blessing, Scripture adds this option, for example, in Romans 2:4: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Blessings are far more than momentary; their true purpose is to keep us turned toward and attuned to God and His call on our lives.
In times of hardship, one of the many options in Scripture valuable for memorization and meditation is 2 Corinthians 4:7-11: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
In times of relative normalcy from a financial standpoint, Proverbs 30:8-9 can impart a steady measure of contentment: “… give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
And from a physical standpoint, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 can provide encouragement toward healthier choices that, over the course of our lives, conceivably could reduce the extent of our battles with illness: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
Whatever crisis or hardship we may face, it is certain that praying in tune with the wonders of God’s revelation in Scripture can lift us above our doubts about God’s care and carry us through our struggles. No one but you may ever know how God has shown His love amid your trials and tribulations. You may not be able to describe fully the intimate ways that a supernatural God has intervened into circumstances that were preying on your physical, mental and emotional frailties. You might undertake a tally of God’s blessings and soon feel that anyone who hears your recollections would regard them as unfathomable or boastful. Or you might not be able to cite a single example of God’s deliverance except that, almost inexplicably, you were buoyed by the Holy Spirit and enabled to persevere until the crisis eased.
It is possible to “greatly rejoice” in our faith, according to 1 Peter, chapter one, “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” Such trials produce a genuine and enduring faith, much like fire refines gold, as we read in verses 6-9. Faith is “of greater worth than gold,” these verses declare, and is the path toward “an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. To read more, go to a previous column by Toalston, titled “New birth,” at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=17467.