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When it all goes wrong, is God still enough?
Eric J. Zanger
We like to blame God. In our minds, we place ourselves as the prosecuting attorney and put God in the defendant’s seat all too often. Moreover, we then begin a diatribe, peppering God with questions: “Why did this happen to me?” or “Why didn’t you stop ____?” or “Why haven’t I received ______?” or “Why don’t you listen to my prayers?” or “Where is my blessing?” often linger in our minds or maybe come out of our mouths. For questions like these to come out at all is problematic; however, a consistent attitude like this belies a heart and a mind that have not fully grasped the riches of God’s salvation.
We have bought a lie that states, “God wants you to be happy. So come to him and he will give you what makes you happy: A new car, more money, great grades, good friends, obedient kids, or success in life.” That’s not true—that’s idolatry. That is taking God and using him as a means to something you think is better. God does in fact want you to be happy—but happiness must be defined by our being satisfied in GOD, not by being happy in the things God gives.
Hebrews 11 contains the Hall of Faith, where the writer of Hebrews demonstrates how living faith produces action. As we look at Hebrews 11, it is easy to see all the amazing ways that God blessed those with faith. At the same time, it is also easy to gloss over some vitally important verses. In verses 33-35, we see how faith helped people conquer kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouth of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, be made strong out of weakness, become mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, and that women received back their dead by resurrection. If I am honest with myself (and hopefully, if we are all honest with ourselves), I really like when faith brings that type of result. I would love to be able to put foreign armies to flight! I would love to obtain promises and stop the mouth of lions! Who wouldn’t?
However, verse 35 turns dark. We see that faith also led to some painful results: “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the word was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38). Did you catch that? Faith in God led to torture. Faith in God led to people refusing to accept release and wanting to die! Faith in God led to mocking and flogging! Faith in God led to prison! Faith in God led to death by stoning! Faith in God led to being sawn in half! This is unbelievable. Faith in God led some to quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, and stop the mouth of lions. Faith in the same God led others to be sawn in two or stoned to death.
I hope Hebrews 11 shatters your thoughts that God owes you cheery rosy days with no conflict, no sorrow, no pain, and certainly, no suffering of any kind. It is easy to thank God for sunny days, but at that point, are you more thankful that you know God or that you have a sunny day? It is much harder to thank God when it is thundering outside and your life seems very dark and impossible. However, that is exactly when God is glorious because he is God, not because he is the giver of stuff.
I want to end this article by asking you two questions. First, why do you love God? Is it because of the blessings he gives you or because you have a good GPA and if those things stop happening, you get angry? Or is it because he has rescued you from the domain of darkness and has brought you into His kingdom? Second, if everything went wrong in your life—you failed your classes, you lost your job, you got cancer, or your best friend died tragically—could you cry out like the psalmist and say, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26)? Could you, through the deepest possible pain, cry out, “God, I do not know what you are doing, but I trust that you are good and that you are more than enough for me”?
I pray that you will and that I will be able to believe that God is enough for us, because there is no promise of sunny days and blue skies in the Scripture.