Life is so often heartbreaking. Whether suffering enters a life as the result of one person's specific sin or just unexplained tragedy that is a part of this broken world, it feels as though the rug has been pulled from underneath your feet. The air has been sucked from your lungs, and the future seems unbearable at times.
Often, when pondering an ongoing situation that seems hopeless or when hearing of sudden, unexpected loss, my mind and heart can wander to a place of doubt. Suffering in the lives of others can leave my faith feeling shaky, and I sometimes fear that suffering that could enter my own life at some point would destroy my faith. It is so easy to speak of God in theory or to study theology as it applies to other people, but when trouble hits close to home, explanations do not often come as easily.
Circumstances can quickly take you from a place of certain faith to a place where you are questioning the character and/or the very existence of God.
It doesn't take us long to think of a situation, whether in our own lives or in the lives of people halfway around the world, that seems to contradict the promises and character as revealed in the Word of God. We throw around light, airy-sounding promises from Scripture and buy pretty paintings of reassuring verses to hang in our house, but do we believe those words when trouble comes?
Many times, my first reaction is to question. How could you? Who are you? Can I really trust you?
But the Lord takes me back to this choice when circumstances and the Word don't seem to match up:
You can allow what you see around you determine what you believe about Me, or you can allow what you believe about Me determine how you see the things around you.
Isn't that faith? The hope of things not seen?
Our circumstances cannot define our theology. The Lord acknowledges in His own Word that we cannot always see the evidence of the object of our faith.
In Genesis 49, the Lord, through a prophecy given by Jacob to his twelve sons, promises that the royal scepter will not leave the tribe of Jacob's son, Judah, until the final King arrives.
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
So, many years later, when the nation of Israel is dissatisfied with the job God is doing as their king and they prematurely demand a human king "like all the other nations" (insert whiny teenager voice), the Lord makes it very clear to His prophet, Samuel, that the man He is calling for the job is Saul. He's a handsome, tall, rich guy with a lot going for him. Seems like the right choice...except for the fact that he is from the tribe of Benjamin.
This may seem insignificant, but I can imagine that, if I were from the tribe which had been promised the throne, I would have some questions. Catching God in a lie would never be insignificant. In that moment, it would seem unquestionably obvious that God was going back on His word. He had lied, or had at least been unfaithful, and if we can find God being unfaithful even once, then He is no longer worthy to be the object of our faith at all.
However, you might know the end of the story. Saul fails as king, and, before he can really get started, God declares that his reign will not endure. A new king is named. A king from the tribe of Judah. The one God had planned from the beginning, before the Israelites thought they knew better. But even with God's declaration and anointing of a new king, it takes decades for this man from Judah to take the throne.
Or how about the cross? Did any situation ever seem more hopeless, more like a failure on God's part, than the death of His Son? Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. In what seemed like the ultimate lack of faithfulness and victory, the greatest victory was won. God showed Himself faithful to the promise He had made from the very beginning.
Both now and then, it can often seem that God is not going to come through, but the beauty comes from the ashes for those who wait in faith.
Whether in the daily struggles of life, in the great tragedies that befall us, or in my own wrestling with my belief about who God is in light of the circumstances around me, I must to cling to the Word of God by the grace of God, maintaining my trust in Who God says He is even when what is in front of my eyes seems to disagree.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11
...in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light... Titus 1