“Hope in Hardship”
There’s a popular verse many people have heard called “Footprints in the Sand.” In it the speaker looks over his life and sees two sets of footprints. He notes whenever he faced times of suffering there was only one set of footprints. Assuming them to be his own he questions the Lord why he left him during the most troublesome times of his life. The Lord’s gentle response was “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
“Why did you leave me Lord? Why did you let me down when I needed you the most?” That’s the way a man by the name of Job felt when undergoing severe trials. In Job chapter seven we hear him pouring out his agony and complaints toward God. “Does not man have hard service on earth?…The night drags on, and I toss till dawn…Remember God that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again…Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul…Why have you made me your target Lord? Have I become a burden to you?” (Selected verses from Job 7)
It may disturb us to hear someone say such words and complain against God, but that happens to people. It can happen in our lives too. All it takes is a period of intense suffering or pain, such as we are going through now with the whole coronavirus pandemic, and we too might find ourselves complaining about God, and doubting his care. When such complaints against God arise in our hearts we need to hear again those words of God which put our suffering into proper perspective and give us hope.
First of all the Lord reminds us that suffering is not what he originally intended for us as his creation. He meant for us to live in perfect peace and happiness. When suffering finally did come into the world, it wasn’t because God failed or turned against us, but because mankind failed and turned against God. It’s because we live sin-filled lives in a sin-filled and imperfect world that we as human beings suffer now, and eventually die.
Secondly, God reminds us though he could have left us in our miserable situation to fend for ourselves, he didn’t! Jesus came into this world to help us and save us. So he says, “The son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost…Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Luke 19:10, Matthew 11:28,29) Do these words sound like the worlds of someone who has turned against us? Who is glad to see us suffer? No! Those are the words of a Lord who deeply cares for us and is willing to do anything needed to help us, including dying on a cross and suffering hell’s punishment himself for our sins, to take our suffering away!
Finally, in the midst of suffering our Lord Jesus reassures us that having given his life to save us from sin and all its harmful consequences, such as Covid-19 and whatever other problems might come to us, he rose from the dead and is alive now to forgive and help all who believe in him through their times of hardship. It’s that confidence and hope given us in Christ that the writer of Hebrews points us to when he says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
So are times rough? Are you enduring hardships right now? Has your faith in Jesus begun to waver? Are you starting to complain against God? Then remember the love Jesus has for you. Look again at Jesus’ limp body hanging on a cross for you. Remember his resurrection through which he brings you new life, and let that reassure you, even when in his infinite wisdom the Lord allows you to suffer, he has NOT turned against you. Jesus is there with you as you trust in him. He is there to pick you up and carry you through all the suffering with the power and strength of his unending love!
Your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus!
Pastor Paul Krentz