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.
Essentially, there are two kinds of fear: HEALTHY FEAR – that keeps us from leaping into volcanoes, and UNHEALTHY FEAR – that paralyzes us; the fear of what others might think as opposed to what God wants us to do.
Satan is a master puppeteer of fears. At every turn, he tries to pull our strings to keep us from being effective Christians. He lies to disguise the truth. We walk in the beautiful forests and mountains, and he tells us to worship that beauty instead of worshipping the Creator who made it.
When God gives us blessings, Satan steals the joy by threatening us with the fear of loosing them. He uses the "spirit of fear" to make our lives miserable through worry. From the “spirit of fear”, we not only doubt ourselves, but we also doubt God and His plans for us.
There was a lady who died in 1916 named Hetty Green. She was called America’s greatest miser. When she died in 1916, she left an estate valued at $100 million. But she was so miserly that she ate cold oatmeal in order to save the expense of heating the water. When her son had a severe leg injury, she took so long trying to find a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of advanced infection. She was so worried about losing her wealth, that she didn’t even enjoy her life!
We can be so afraid of losing our wealth or job that we never enjoy our life. Or we can lose our jobs and drown in the fear that it’s all over. The job, instead of our faith in Christ, becomes our identity. Without the job, we fear that we have no more value or worth in this world. Generally, it seems to be us men, more than the women, who stumble into that one. Some people are so afraid that something is going to happen to their marriage, that they never get really close to their spouse or have the intimacy that God intends for them.