Point to Ponder: There is a purpose behind every problem.
Question to Consider: What problem in my life has caused the greatest growth in me?
Not, I hasten to add, that suffering is itself good. Certainly in heaven all suffering and pain will be gone, but then again so will all sin and evil. Until then, we have both the duty (and, amazingly, the privilege) of enduring suffering and pain that we might learn to hate evil, overcome sin, develop character, and glorify God. As Rick says, “Everything that happens to us is Father-filtered, and he intends to use it for good even when Satan and others mean it for bad.”
Note that this is not the same as saying that God ’caused’ evil, or even that He explicitly ‘chose’ that evil for us. I have what I suppose might be called a “strong” view of evil, in that I consider both Satan and human beings to have been granted real power to do evil things — and that there are real consequences even for unwise things done in ignorance (e.g, building a city on an apparently dormant volcano).
At the same time, I fully affirm with Rick that God only allows us — those “called according to God’s purpose” — to experience those things that He is willing and able to use for our good. That doesn’t mean they always will result in our good — we always have the option of responding with bitterness and disbelief. But it does mean that they always can — if we are willing to dig deeper into God!
This is an amazingly strong statement, and fiendishly difficult to prove (perhaps literally :-). After all, the world is full of negative experiences that didn’t turn out well. Nonetheless, the converse is also true; in fact, the greatest injustice the world has even seen (the crucifixion of Christ) is also the most wonderful event in human history! If God can redeem that, then is there really any evil and suffering too great for Him to redeem, if we let Him?
Rick suggests three ways for us to avoid becoming “bitter, rather than better”:
Easy to say, hard to do. But the rewards for those who overcome are beyond our imagination.
Prayer: God, I honestly don’t know whether I have a harder time trusting you with great tragedies or petty annoyances. It seems so much of my time and energy is consumed with trying to protect myself (or my ego) from harm, or justifying my unwillingness to take up my cross and follow you. Father, save me from myself. Even if it hurts. I ask this in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who suffered so much for me. Amen.