Summary: It’s so tempting to believe that God will somehow protect us from such catastrophic trials if only our faith is strong enough, our convictions deep enough, our conduct good enough. God’s plans, however, are frequently confusing and mysterious.
Before I can begin, I have a confession to make. Personally, I find it very hard to “glory in tribulation.” I’m not talking about flat-tire tribulations or ants-in-the-kitchen tribulations. I mean the tribulations of Job that rock us to the very core of our faith. It’s so tempting to believe that God will somehow protect us from such catastrophic trials if only our faith is strong enough, our convictions deep enough, our conduct good enough. God’s plans, however, are frequently confusing and mysterious. Just when we think we are following God’s directions, tragedy strikes, and we falter in confusion. We tell ourselves that it’s just an obstacle to overcome . . . and then another and another trial comes, like so many boulders in an avalanche, until we sound like Job:
"Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target?" (Job 7:19-20a, NIV)
Or when David cried out,
“The sorrows of Shoel surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me;
In my distress, I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God.”
It’s times like those when we learn how very little we actually understand about God’s plans. It’s times like those when the word, “FAITH” takes on a whole new meaning and “FEAR FOR LIFE” seems more real than fear of the IRS. You reach into your bag of acquired resources time and again for answers and solutions. Time and again they’re not enough until we finally ask, “How much longer is this going to last?”
Sometimes we underestimate how much courage it takes for some people to simply get out of bed in the morning. Courage and faith have a great deal in common. For most of us, neither comes easily.
A student of philosophy was taking his final written exam at a university. The students were given five hours to expound on a single topic, "What is courage?" The young man sat thoughtfully at his desk for a brief time. Finally, he scribbled something on his paper, got up, and handed it to the professor while the others were frantically writing volumes. Later, when the grades were posted, the other students were amazed that he had received an “A”. The professor shared the student’s paper with the class. It said simply, “This is.”
If the mountain tops represent the joy of living and rejoicing with God, then surely the valleys are where we experience the trials and tribulations that are such a part of this world.
Everyone knows what it is like to be afraid. Some fear heights; others bugs or snakes. Some are afraid of loosing control. There are also hidden fears that may motivate us. Fear of failure may cause some to never start or try anything that is not completely safe. Fear of rejection or disapproval makes many people afraid to act. They spend their time bemoaning their short-comings instead of counting their strengths. And some even take delight in reminding others of their inadequacies – as though tearing others down will somehow build themselves up. Sadly enough, they ultimately build nothing . . neither in others nor in themselves.