Many of you will recognize the title of this blog today as coming from the 1993 biopic movie of that name about the life of Tina Turner. This blog is not about that. But that title can be co-opted to answer a gnawing question that many of us have as believers; “Why does God allow hard things in the lives of his people?” This of course is an ancient question. Often we question the motives of God if not the wisdom of God in designing (if he is indeed sovereign…and he is) certain circumstances in our lives that are hard, hurtful, dangerous, pain inflicting, etc.
First, let me say, there is hardship in every life in varying degrees. Even in America, where our lives are so provisionally bestowed upon with material prosperity, abundant medical care, and a very safe and secure existence in terms of literal physical “danger”, trouble comes. The old saying “into every life a little rain must fall” is a truism that we have all experienced. No, we may not be starving, without shelter, or without basic needs met, but we still get cancer, lose possessions, have loved ones die, etc.
But even in our “blessed” situation in prosperous, protected America, when severe trials come, we have a tendency to wonder why God has crafted hardships at all for his people. Why hasn’t God simply promised to protect us from all hardship once we became his children through faith in Jesus Christ?
It might have been the very question Mary, Martha, and his disciples were asking in John 11 when news comes to Jesus that his dear friend, Lazarus, is gravely ill. We are told in the narrative “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister (Mary) and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (v. 5, 6). Wait! What? When he heard that the one he loved, Lazarus, was ill he stayed where he was two more days? Why? I don’t know about you but if I was on a trip and I heard my wife, whom I love, was gravely ill, I would not delay in getting home. I’d get there ASAP.
So why did Jesus tarry two more days? In that two-day time period, Lazarus dies. He then determines to go to them. This was a mystery to Mary to be sure. When Jesus finally does come, Martha runs out to meet Jesus and affirms that she knows that if Jesus had been there, her brother would not have died. But Mary stayed in the house, ostensibly in silent protest. But Jesus asks for her. When she does come to the master she begins in that tone of complaint, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” If you listen carefully you will note the slightest of indictments. It is not fully blown. It is not overt. But there is the hint of malfeasance here being suggested. Was the master “asleep at the wheel” when he should have been here to staunch the illness that had attacked his friend?
I wonder if our prayers, at times, do not carry that silent but implied indictment of God when tragedy befalls us and we ask “why?” I wonder how often we feel, perhaps silently, “I don’t deserve this” or “God could have prevented this”.
So why does God allow hardship to befall us? Why did Jesus “let” Lazarus die? It is because he loved him, his sisters, and his disciples. Verse five clearly states how he loved them. SO, as a result of his loving them, he waited two days until Lazarus died. Finally, when he does order the trip to Bethany, his obtuse disciples do not understand his euphemism for death when he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.” They thought that was a good thing, physical sleep being a recuperative element. But Jesus says to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake, I’m glad I was not there (to heal him of his illness).” The reason he gives is “so that they (the disciples) might believe”.
Of course this account then unfolds into the resurrection of Lazarus, as a picture and in anticipation of his own resurrection shortly to come. It is this account that has been recounted down through the centuries and has brought faith and courage to untold millions.
Why did God allow our child to die? Why did God allow my husband to die at 34 years of age while small children and a young wife are left to mourn and now fend for themselves? Why does God determine that we will have health difficulties, relationship difficulties, career difficulties, or financial difficulties? Here is the answer: because he loves us!
He loves us enough to craft the difficult situations in life so as to bring us closer to him, more reliant upon him, and more believing in him. He certainly loves the young husband who has died and is now in heaven. But he also loves the young wife and children and wants them to grow in their faith as they rely upon the God.
I do not know why sanctification seems to come mostly in the face of hardship and difficulty. I know it has been through the difficult things in my life that I have grown the most. We don’t feel the need to change much of anything when everything is going great and life is easy. Why change anything in that context, just continue to do what we’re doing! We must be doing something right, right? But let dark providence show itself, let extreme trials come, and things can begin to change. Evaluation begins. A more serious walk with God ensues. And once we have come through the trial we realize that God has done this because he loves me.
I don’t know what trial you may be facing. I don’t know what foreboding dark clouds are gathering in your life. But I do know that whatever they are, God has designed these circumstances thusly because he loves you. May these things be genuine “faith builders” in our lives. What’s love got to do with it? Love is God’s motivation in bringing these challenges in your life. Oh, how he loves you and me.