It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71). The psalmist David had felt the deep pain of real affliction, and through it he had come to know God better, through his Word. The cost of coming to know God better was his own comfort, but David says it was worth it, it was good. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God holds himself up as the treasure of the universe, of surpassing value.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). This may be the hardest thing in the Christian life. It’s simple to understand, but seems impossible to do. How do you find joy during a battle with cancer? How do you rejoice when you can’t find a job or can’t kick an addiction; when you’re mocked for your faith; when all you want are your circumstances to change?
The question of evil and suffering is never a theoretical one. We all experience real and deep pain and wickednes. However, for the Christian believer (who recognizes there is a God), there are only three logical possibilities for the evil things that happen in this world:
Do not fear, only believe (Mark 5:36). As you read this, you may at this moment be filled with hope and expectation … or you may be filled with dread and anxiety about the future. Either way, Jesus’ simple words to a suffering man speak volumes. Jesus invites us to rest in him, now and always. But why should we trust Jesus? How can we be certain that he has our best in mind, or that he is working for our good?
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). What an unspeakable blessing, to be chosen — of all women, from all generations — to be the one woman who would be mother to the holy Son of God. In the very next verse in Luke the angel announces that Mary will conceive and bear a son, who is to be named Jesus. He will be great, he will be called the Son of the Most High, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Did you know that the command “Fear not” is by far the most repeated command in the Bible, across both Testaments? We can so easily paint an inaccurate, unrealistic picture of biblical heroes in our minds. The fact is they, like we, struggled with fear and anxiety about God’s working in their lives. This is of course the only explanation as to why we see this constant refrain throughout Scripture: “Fear not.”
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). After Paul fervently prayed for God to remove a particular trial from his life, he received an answer.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What a sweeping, staggering claim this is! And yet Paul says we can know for certain that all the details of our lives are working together for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ. How do we know this?
The apostle Peter writes to hurting and persecuted Christian believers, who have been “scattered” from their homes and familiar surroundings, and tells them to cast all their anxieties on God knowing that God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). This is not some puff piece, or academic lecture, or thoughtless encouragement. Peter is communicating to real people, in real pain, and giving them real comfort. God cares about you!