We are, as Christians, tempted to think – “well, that’s Jesus, not me. I shouldn’t cast my circumstances into the frame of Jesus’ sufferings.”
But that’s a mistake. God Himself says otherwise. Jesus says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master,” Matthew 10:24. And He says, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” Luke 14:27. And God says in Hebrews, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Hebrews 12:1-8
(Every time you read “sons” know that a better understanding would be “sons & daughters” – it’s just that language is never quite as all-embracing as God actually is.) This is so powerful, because as difficult as suffering is, as it turns out, when we suffer as Christians, that suffering is a confirmation of who we are as sons and daughters of God Almighty. Jesus the Son of God suffered. When we, sons and daughters of God, suffer too – we are confirmed in our son/daughter-ship of God and can rejoice as St. Paul did. He said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,” Colossians 1:24.
So, I can’t answer “why?”. Neither Joseph, Job, or Jesus got an answer to that…at least, not immediately.
But, I know this, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:28-32.
I don’t often feel that. But I know it. I always know it. I insist on returning to it over and over and over – and knowing it all over again – because life is full of disappointment, paradox, and grief – but, “Let God be true though every one were a liar…” Romans 3:4. He has spoken. I rest in what He has said and continues to say through His Word and Spirit.
All the Psalms of Asaph are always so helpful during difficult times. Asaph was like me and you. Often up, often down. Psalm 73 is a particular favorite of mine. Also, be liberated by the supernatural task James places on you in James 1:2 “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds…” You’re called to something you can’t do yourself. Joy in suffering! Cast yourself upon the Lord asking Him to sustain you. He promises He will. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13