If you didn’t catch the previous post, read It’s Not About Me: Part 1.
Max Lucado’s book It’s Not About Me calls into question the human tendency to believe the universe revolves around us. “We’ve been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy,” Lucado writes. “Aren’t we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me.”
The book demands honest re-evaluation of both self and God, but what particularly spoke to my heart was the chapter on life’s struggles. Lucado makes the case that even our sufferings are not about us.
When his friend Lazarus fell ill, Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Instead of immediately going to his friend’s aid, Jesus waited. He stayed where he was until Lazarus died. How could he allow such suffering? Because he knew it would bring greater glory to God if Lazarus not only recovered from illness, but returned to life.
At another point, Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples assumed his blindness was punishment for sin. Jesus then replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).
If Jesus could use the suffering of Lazarus and the blind man, then Lucado asks, “What about your struggles? Is there any chance, any possibility, that you have been selected to struggle for God’s glory? Have you ‘been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1:29)?”One of the most difficult arguments against Christian faith is: If a good God exists, then why does pain? Suffering leads us to question God’s character. If God is loving, then he must not be almighty, otherwise he would prevent tragedy. Or if God is almighty, then he must not be all-knowing, because only ignorance can explain his blind eye to grief. Or if God is both almighty and all-knowing, then he must be indifferent.
Lucado responds, “Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end–the glory of God.”
It may appear like the world is full of senseless pain, but God uses it, bringing good out of evil. He does not waste it. Sometimes it’s used for God’s discipline. Sometimes he’s teaching you to rely on him and not your own strength or ability. And other times the testimony of his people under suffering brings more children to him than could have been saved by a prosperity gospel.
Lucado encourages his readers to discover how their problems can be used for God and his glory. But I would add that we should not be content with saying, “It is God’s will.” I don’t believe it is God’s will for anyone to suffer. Pain is a derivative of evil. We suffer because we are separated from God and live in a world that has been corrupted by sin. Jesus won over evil at the cross, but the war wages on with the world caught in the crossfire. Because suffering will continue until Jesus vanquishes over all, we should turn suffering in God’s favor, as an opportunity to reveal him ever more to this world. At a funeral of a loved one, we can show other people our assured hope of life after this one. When bed-ridden by illness, we can display how we trust God for his comfort and control.
What sacrifice are our temporary sufferings when we have an eternity to look forward to when there will no longer be grief or pain? Revelation promises, when God is finally reunited with his people, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). The Apostle Paul adds, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
As long as we have God with us through these painful days, what more can we ask of him? Contrary to popular belief, he owes us nothing. The reverse is true; we are the ones who are indebted. What right do we have to complain when life really isn’t about us?
We are like the child who just begins to feel the hunger pangs before dinnertime. He complains to his father, crying that he will die of hunger. The father knows better. Can anyone blame the father for making his child wait half an hour until dinner is served? The child may at first think the father is cruel. But if the child trusts his father, he might go outside to play with the neighbor kid while he waits. And he might tell that kid, “I’m hungry now, but I know Dad will call me for dinner soon.”