April 16, 2011
“Now, no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised thereby.”
When we understand this, our questions of “Why?” will turn to quiet words of “Yes, Lord.”
Without a doubt, the most difficult thing to understand in life is “Why do ‘good’ people suffer?” Job wondered that when his whole life was turned upside down, even though he “was perfect, upright, feared God and avoided evil” (Job 1:1). No doubt Joseph wondered that when he’d been thrown in a dry cistern by his brothers (Gen. 37:18-24), sold into slavery in Egypt (37:25-36), falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned (39:1-23) and then forgotten by the chief butler “for a full two years” even though he’d promised to put in a good word for Joseph to Pharaoh (40:1-41:1).
This paradox is also compounded by our own sense of “justice,” which says “Do good and you’ll be rewarded; do bad and you’ll be punished.” As parents, we go out of our way to protect our children. . .moving sharp-cornered coffee tables and objects out of the way of our children when they’re learning to walk. . .keeping them from touching hot stoves and teaching them to not talk to strangers, etc., etc., etc.
That’s why God’s “chastening doesn’t seem to be joyous, but grievous (Grk. ‘lupe’—‘sorrowful, heavy, that which is borne grudgingly, etc.’)”—especially when it seems we’ve done nothing to “deserve” such harsh hardship.
The Psalmist Asaph was quiet transparent in his struggles with this in Ps. 73, “The Psalm of Perplexity.” He felt like someone on a “slippery slope, who was about down for the count” (v.2). And, he was honest in his confession as to why: “I was envious of the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the rich” (v.3). Then, he went on to openly air his grievances over “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer” (vv.4-12). He couldn’t understand why they “prospered” while he and the other saints suffered (vv.10, 12-15).
But, when he got alone with God he gained a whole new understanding of it all (vv.16-20). And, in the process, he also realized how stupid and ungrateful he’d been—especially when He realized the Lord had “been with him continually. . .holding him by His right Hand . . . guiding him by His counsel. . .and afterward would receive him to Glory” (vv.21-24).
No wonder he broke forth in praise: “Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there’s none upon the earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the Strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v.25). Hallelujah!!
And, dear Pilgrim, the same is true for us when we realize our Lord is producing within us “His peaceable of Righteousness” through the things we suffer. Our hardships and heartaches are the means by which He “exercises us.” These enlarge our faith and strengthen our patience (Rom. 5:3-4). Just as Jesus “learned obedience through the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8), so do we learn trust and sweet surrender through the difficulties we endure.