Over the years, within the mix of countless church services I’ve attended, I’ve heard this question answered the same way time and time again, but I was never satisfied. In each instance, the Pastor, Preacher, Minister, or whatever they answered to, would stand up and definitively say, “To test us!” While this may be true, this never fully explained why. Being the Realist that I am, I understood there’s an abundance of “tests.” What am I being tested for–aptitude, intelligence, holiness? Soon, I understood I would need to find the answers myself. Little did I know, to find these answers, my life would take me through Spiritual highs and rough lows. Thankfully, I now understand the reasoning since seeing through Spiritual eyes. I believe there are 6 main reason why God allows (not causes) bad things to happen to his children, and the methods for which he does. See God Cannot Cause Bad Things to Happen. Additionally, not every affliction is a test, rather than a molding of our spirit to put us where God wants us to be. The easiest way to understand each point is to think on them from a Parent and child relational standpoint. In each instance, we find we want what’s best for our child(ren).
To Test Our Commitment:
This point is truly a test; one typically associated with brand new Christians, or Christians that make the decision to rededicate their lives to Christ. I also call this the Fight or Flight test. In this evaluation, God will step back a little to see how committed you are to the decision you made to follow him. He’s testing if you’re really serious, or if you just surrendered because you were in the moment. This test is completely understandable. For example, my oldest son wanted to wrestle for his sport last year. He seemed really eager to try but I wasn’t so sure. I understand wrestling is a tough, grueling sport where potential for getting slammed or hurt is high. My wife and I eventually said yes, and I was eager to see if he would follow through after his first tough practice or match. Therefore, I wasn’t by his side making sure not a scratch befell him. I had to step back to test his commitment, despite the potential for harm. My son stuck it out, a.k.a, he passed. It’s the same for God. Christ knows following him is not easy. He wants to weed out the people who are fully committed from the people who run away at the first sign of trouble. Which are we? When times get tough after our commitment to Christ (which they will), are we going to stand firm in the promises of God, or are we going to take the easy way out and return to the world?
To Say, “I Told You So”:
I cannot explain how many times I’ve warned my children not to do something, but they continued to try, so I just had to sit back and wait for them to fail and give the “I told you so” explanation once it was over. Christ uses this same technique. It’s always one of two scenarios: either they think they’re wise enough to do a task on their own, or they fail to listen to a warning. For example, a task would be to climb a jungle-gym, and a warning not to touch a hot stove. Christians, and adults in general, love to think we know what’s best, when God has already explained what’s truly best multiple times in his Word. The test here is to allow us to see if we can really do things on our own. Spoiler: we can’t. The bible says, anything built on a foundation other than Christ Jesus will crumble. Therefore, allowing God to rule your decisions in life will always be best. As for the warnings, we’re all too familiar with not listing to warnings from God. Our convictions will constantly tell us to stop committing a habitual sin, and if we ignore God’s commandments long enough, Christ will pull the protection and let things fail apart. Sometimes, we’re so stubborn, the only way God can teach us is through failure. Thankfully, our God is always ready to pick us up, dust us off, and lovingly reply, “I told you so.”
To Allow Us to Relate:
If Christians were protected from all hardships of the world, how could we understand what the world is going through? We couldn’t. Jesus himself made a point to suffer all of humanities burdens to understand what we experience, so who are we to be exempt? Could we truly comfort a person who’s lost a child if no Christian has ever lost one? Could we truly help a person out of depression if no Christian has ever been depressed? We like to think we could, but we can’t. For us to be used as a testimony and supporter to others, we must first suffer and overcome the same trials in order to shine light into their darkness, how Christ shined light into ours. Additionally, observing other’s undergo the same trials we’ve endured gives us a taste of God’s heart. It gives us a greater desire to pass on the comfort we now know, the comfort of Christ Jesus. If you’ve never helped someone through a tribulation you’ve already beaten, you’re wasting your testimony, making what you suffered unfruitful.
To Build Faith:
The bible says, without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, we must have hardships to build faith. How so, you ask? Well, if every person that accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior immediately began to have a perfect life, never facing any trials, would the world need much faith to know Jesus was God? No. Everyone and their dog would run to Christianity because they could see the difference happen. Therefore, Hebrews 11:1 wouldn’t apply, which states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (KJV).” The evidence of God would clearly been seen. Relying on God without visual proof is a good definition of faith. Remember, Christ tells us we are in this world, not of it. Meaning, we are going to blend in with the same hardships as non believers, but our trials are of God, for God’s glory.
To Discipline Us:
This one is self-explanatory, but for the sake of continuity, the bible says if you love your child you’ll discipline he or she. Lack of discipline gives no child motivation to do good, and eventually their sinful nature will take over. Christ understands this as well. He loves us enough to deter us from unrighteousness, which ultimately strengthens our resolve. Hebrews 12:5-11 ESV:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
To Break Us:
Show me the first person who said “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” and I’ll show you a fool that doesn’t know scripture. There are stories throughout the bible where God breaks people. This test is specifically designed to break a person, and it’s typically because we’re living in sin and God wants us to repent. The most notable example is the story of the Prodigal Son. In this story, the son was so far gone in sin that his father (representing God) allowed him to hit his spiritual breaking point, also known as rock bottom. I guarantee the father knew his son wouldn’t survive the real world, but a father also knows his children. He knew his son wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he gave his son his inheritance early. Only until this prodigal son was eating pig slop as a slave did he realize he’d messed up, resulting in his decision to repent to his father. Sometimes we become so blinded by sin that God allows us to break, which can force us to realize the error of our ways. In the end, just like our Good Father, the early father patiently waited until repentance and greeted his son with open arms.
In sum, these 6 reasons serve two purposes, to mold us to be better equipped to reach the world, and to strengthen our resolve for righteousness, whether the easy way or the hard way. We should never be discouraged when facing a tough storm in our lives. The bible says to rejoice in your trials. Why? One of our man goals as Christians is to be Christ-like, so don’t you think being Christ-like includes being persecuted like Christ?
Words to think about.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Thanks for reading!
– The Christian Realist