My favorite part of youth group on Wednesdays is small group time. The guys and girls split off based on grade and discuss Scripture passages and the Bible’s relevance for issues teens face today.
Call me biased, but my group of 9th and 10th grade girls is awesome. They are open and transparent, bringing up tough questions and suggesting answers to help each other.
Last week, one question that spun out of our discussion was: “Why does my life feel harder now that I know Christ?”
I so much appreciated this young woman’s sincerity and searching spirit. What believer at one time or another hasn’t wondered about this? Why do some of God’s children face hardships and trials that don’t seem to end? Why are some burdened with emotional and physical difficulties that weigh on their spirits and hearts?
I wish there were a simple answer to that question, but there isn’t. I wish we could understand why God allows trials into our lives that don’t seem to serve any purpose, but sometimes, we just have to trust Him.
Covering this topic in one post isn’t possible, so we might spend some more time on it later. For now, I’d like to start by thinking on some biblical passages that may help us understand, though imperfectly, the role of hardships in God’s plan for our lives.
Our broken world
In the beginning of our world, Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect unity with God and creation. Everything was theirs to enjoy except for one tree whose fruit they were forbidden to eat.
Satan, disguised as a serpent, persuaded Eve – and then Adam – to take a bite anyway, appealing to their pride and sense of divinity.
And so, paradise was lost, and our world was broken, no longer perfect, and stained by sin: disobedience to God.
Sin is the reason there’s suffering in the world. Now let me make a quick clarification: Because someone is suffering does not mean it is a direct punishment for a specific sin.
Jesus makes this clear in the circumstance of a man born blind. John 9:1-3 tells the story.
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (NKJV).
God glorified through suffering? Paul came to understand this seeming paradox through his experience with a severe physical ailment. Some scholars think it was a vision problem, but since the Bible doesn’t say, we don’t know for sure.
Regardless, his struggle and its solution are spelled out in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9:
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (NKJV).
Yes, this world is broken, but God can still work His purposes through our lives.
Over the weekend, I watched the 1958 movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman as Chinese missionary Gladys Aylward. She first attempted to go to China through the China Inland Mission but was essentially told, “You’re not qualified to serve in China.”
Despite the odds against her, she determined to go, and God used her, the woman not qualified to serve in China, mightily. (Note: The movie was excellent, though not completely accurate to Aylward’s story.)
Maybe we don’t feel qualified. Maybe we’re plagued by physical burdens or circumstances that make life seem impossible.
But God can work all things together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Impossible is not a word in God’s dictionary.
So redact it from your personal dictionary as well.