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Posts tagged ‘doubting God’

Secret Wisdom in the Wake of Suffering

SOURCE:  Marshall Segal/Desiring God

Wisdom may be as basic a human need as air, water, or shelter.

We all need guidance and direction, and we need it today and every day.

If you don’t think you need wisdom, then you need it even more than the rest of us. We make decisions every day that require wisdom — in choosing what to do or not do, in meetings at work, in loving our spouse, in our routine at home, in parenting our children, in weathering heartache and suffering.

Job was starved for wisdom in the wake of perhaps the greatest personal tragedy ever recorded. He lost one thousand oxen and five hundred donkeys to thieves (Job 1:3, 14–15), and his servants watching over the animals were slaughtered (Job 1:15). Only moments later, fire fell from the sky and burned his seven thousand sheep, along with the servants tending them (Job 1:16). Then, all three thousand of his camels were seized in another raid, and the servants responsible for them murdered (Job 1:17). Lastly, and most tragically, Job’s own sons and daughters all were killed — seven young men, and three precious girls. A strong wind struck their house, causing the roof to collapse on them (Job 1:2, 18–19).

Can you imagine not just losing one child but ten — and all in one horrifying moment?

Job lost his ten children that one afternoon, along with almost everyone else he loved and almost everything else he owned. Then Satan even attacked his body, spreading sores from his head to his feet (Job 2:7), adding awful pain and irritation to his already unbearable grief and distress.

Few, if any, have known suffering like Job.

The book is one long, excruciating wrestling with why — an impossible mountain climb to wisdom in suffering’s dead of winter. Why all of the oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels, Lord? Why did they have to kill my servants? Why give me the blessing of ten children — knit together delicately, delivered safely, held and raised lovingly, prized immensely — and then ripped right out of my arms? Why add insult to injury, covering my grieving, lonely body with agony? Why?

Who Sinned That Job Should Suffer?

Job says, “Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12).

He’s listened to his well-meaning, but misguided friends fumble for answers for more than twenty-five chapters now — most of their counsel and advice spent accusing him of wrongdoing, presuming the waves of suffering fell on him because of some unconfessed sin. While he did misspeak at times (Job 38:2), Job carries a confidence that God is not punishing sin, but doing something profound and mysterious in all the sorrow.

His friends play the naïve and simplistic role of Jesus’s disciples — “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). What sin did Job commit to deserve loss, death, and pain like this? With less clarity, but great faith, Job echoes what Jesus would say hundreds of years later, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). It was not because of sin that my livelihood was stolen, or my servants killed, or my sons and daughters crushed, but because God, in great love and mercy, wants the whole world to see his glory.

And in his infinite wisdom, only God knew exactly how that will happen — in Job’s life and in ours.

The Author and Fountain of Wisdom

Where is wisdom like God’s found? Job says, “It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air” (Job 28:21). We will not find the right answers in the world — in newspapers, books, schools, or with Google. The world is filled with knowledge, opinion, and passion, but is starving for wisdom. So where should we turn when we’re searching for wisdom — for answers — in the midst of disappointment, suffering, and tragedy?

“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out.” (Job 28:23–27)

Only one holds the wisdom we need in the blinding, deafening wake of pain and loss. He sees everything everywhere all at once, and all the time. He weighs and wields the wind — imagine how hard it would be for Job to say those words after seeing his dead children.

God weaved the world with wisdom and runs the world with wisdom, including every drop of rain, every cool summer breeze, and every hurricane-force gust.

Fear the God of Comfort

But how do we search the infinite mind of God to find comfort for our sorrow and hope for our future?

Job goes on, “[The Lord] said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’” (Job 28:28; alsoProverbs 3:7). Are you asking Why? in the midst of terrible suffering or sudden tragedy? Draw near to the awesome God of the universe, and away from every other way people try and deal with their pain. Forsake sin and all its empty promises to heal and comfort you. Run, instead, to the Author and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2), as well as the loving Father and Worker in your pain (Romans 8:28).

The fear of the Lord is not terror, but awe-filled faith. “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied” (Proverbs 19:23; alsoProverbs 14:27). Christians live and suffer with a fearful rest and satisfaction in God. The believers in the early church walked “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). One kind of fear breeds clarity and comfort, rather than anxiety and confusion. Isaiah says, “Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13–14).

If God and his wisdom are our comfort and confidence, we will walk away from foolishness and evil. Satan makes sin even more tantalizing in suffering — brighter colors, louder notes, sweeter smells. But faith knows the comfort we need is waiting in the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). We do not envy sinners (Proverbs 23:17), because we know that disaster and confusion — not freedom, clarity, or healing — are the fruits of sin.

In the face of devastating news, our gut reaction and temptation might be to doubt God or run from him. But heart-wrenching wisdom and understanding are not found anywhere deep inside ourselves or somewhere far from God, but woven into his wise and sovereign love for us.

We cannot capture or completely grasp his wisdom, but we can worship him and trust him with all the painful unknowns in life.

Ever Accuse God of Being ABSENT or UNLOVING?

SOURCE:  Adapted from Paul Tripp Ministries

Have you ever accused God of being absent?

Have you ever criticized the Lord for being unloving?

I would like to think that I’ve always trusted in God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, and eternal, unshakeable love. After all, these are things I’ve been taught since my earliest days Sunday School!

But I’m deeply persuaded that many “theologically sound” Christians actually doubt the presence and love of God. Why do I think that? Because God says we do! Take Isaiah 59:1, for example:“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.”

Let me give you the quick context of this verse. Israel is suffering big time, and whether they say it audibly with their mouths or grumble silently in their hearts, they have accused God of two things: first, being powerless in their time of need, and second, being unmoved by their cries for help.

You and I are much like the Israelites. When life isn’t working out according to our plan, or when we’re suffering in some way, it’s very tempting for us to bring God into the court of our judgement and question his faithfulness, wisdom and love. That’s what Israel was doing – they were questioning the character of God.

I wish I could write to you today and say that at all times, I trust in the sovereignty of God and the nature of his love. While I have experienced his power and love on many occasions, I have to be honest with you: when the comfort and ease of life is interrupted, I wrestle with who God actually claims to be. I know I’m not alone in my struggle.

There’s a deep danger with this type of doubt: you no longer pursue someone you no longer trust. Think about it. Would you continue to invest in a company if you knew the CEO was corrupt and stealing from the investors? Would you continue to visit a fraudulent “doctor” who had faked his licenses? Would you continue to hire a babysitter convicted of repeated crimes?

You see, when you allow your heart to begin to question God’s goodness, even in subtle ways, you’ll quit pursuing him. That’s exactly what happened with Israel – they thought that God wasn’t strong enough to intervene (his hand is too short) and that he didn’t love his children enough (his ear is dull to their cries) to rescue them from the difficulty.

What Israel didn’t understand, however, was that the grace of God will visit in uncomfortable forms. Difficulty in your life is not a sign that God’s hand is too short, nor is it a sign that his ears are too dull. Rather, it’s a sign of his love. God will wrap his arms around you and bring you through difficulty to increase your faith and increase your love for him.

EXTREME SUFFERING TAKES US TO ONE QUESTION

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“Almighty God, why have you done this to us? Have you no heart, no feelings? Have you no eyes to see with? Have you no ears to hear us with? You are wicked, O Lord, as wicked as a man.”

These are the words of a Jewish man who was watching people die while being driven in a dank, vomit and blood-laden, over-crowded truck from a ghetto in Hungary to Auschwitz. He had entered the extremes of human pain. Though laconic by nature, he could not hold back. He had to speak this anti-psalm.

Most of us have our points when suffering has the power to take us into the anti-psalms.

For some—and I have witnessed this—it could be a flat tire or plumbing mishap.

For others the line is not crossed until the life of a loved one is in jeopardy.

Yet for those like the Apostle Paul, there is no line. No amount of suffering could shake his confidence in God.

I fear that my own line is between the flat tire and the loved one in jeopardy.

If we have a line at which faith withers, there is only one question. Do I live for God or does he live for me? There are other questions we could ask such as, do I believe that God loves me? But that does not quite get to the stark, either/or essence of human life. God is in heaven, we are on earth. He is the Creator, I am his creation.

Do I live for him or does he live for me?

Do I Need Something MORE than GOD?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

[Envy is] wanting and sometimes craving what others have, instead of getting our joy from God and what He has given us. Envy is one of the traps Satan sets for us, using our pride, flesh, and satisfy-me-now mentality against us. Satan deceives us constantly. He actually distorts our lenses, so we believe that our fulfillment and joy in this life come from emotional, psychological, physical, or material answers. His goal is getting us to close down our spiritual radar, turn off our spiritual antennae, and ignore divine answers for our needs

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a fantastic set up, a direct relationship with the perfect God in the perfect setting and no adversity. But they weren’t omniscient and they were gullible (like us). Satan tricked them into believing they needed something more. They thought or feared that something was missing from their life. He duped them into thinking they needed more power and more knowledge, and could get all that through a piece of fruit. I like to think I would have held out for a steak. Instead of staying in relationship with God and relying on Him, they were swindled by Satan, tricked into trading eternal life with God for separation from God and life on their own. Thankfully, God wasn’t vengeful against them and provided a way back into relationship with Him.

Here’s the trap.

If you believe your happiness and contentment depend on your external circumstances, or some place or someone else other than God, you will always be lost, unhappy, and discontent. Those things weren’t meant to bring you what you desire, nor can they.

God designed us specifically to be immune to those external things. So regardless of our circumstances, or more importantly, the mistakes we make that damage our circumstances, we still have access to a peace, comfort, and joy that is independent of who or what is around us.

Look inside and identify some of your traps … fruit/apples … you have been tricked into believing. How were you tricked into believing they could deliver what you really desire, in the deepest places of your heart. It seems silly when we put it that way, but that shows the cunning of our Adversary in the war we are fighting.

Don’t mistake momentary relief for true fulfillment. That’s Satan’s trap! Whether you choose God to meet your needs or settle for the substitutes of this world is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, You and only You are the source of my joy, peace, and comfort. I confess that my need to control life is the apple I frequently grab. Help me grow trust in Your control in my life instead of my inadequate abilities. Please grow in me eyes that see and ears that hear the traps Satan places in my path. Lord, help me choose the Stepping Stone You have for my movement forward to Christ-likeness. Strengthen me through Your Spirit to resist the temptations and impulses of my flesh so I don’t get trapped and have to ask for Your forgiveness yet again. Thanks for Your endless grace and forgiveness. In Jesus’ all providing death and resurrection I pray;  – AMEN!

The Truth
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:4-7

A Prayer for Worshiping God Before, In and After the Fire

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-18

Heavenly Father, I am convicted, stretched and encouraged, by the way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego honored you in this story. How refreshing to behold such God-centered, non-utilitarian, heart-engaged, authentic and fearless love for you.

These three friends didn’t worship you because of the gifts you give them, but because of the God that you are. They were firmly convinced that you could rescue them from the fiery furnace; but even if you didn’t rescue them, it would have no effect on their love for you, and trust in you. They would rather be delivered into your presence through the fire, than worship some other false god just to escape the fire.

Father, forgive me when my worship of you varies in response to my perceptions of how well and quick you answer my prayers—how fully you “bless” me, protect me, and grant me relief. As cynical as I am about the “name it and claim it” and prosperity theologies, I’m quite capable of doubting your love when life gets complicated and painful—when I have to wait on you and trust you in the dark and silence. I want to worship you beforethere’s a fire, when I’m in the fire, when the fire’s extinguished, or if you should choose to take me home through the fire.

Lord Jesus, you alone can give me such freedom and love; passion and delight; faithfulness and courage. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire, you were the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around in the fiery furnace—so great is your faithfulness to us. And you were the one who endured the “fiery trial” of the cross—so great is your grace for us. You will never leave us or forsake us—at any time or in any trial. Because of the gospel, “fire” is less about out destruction and more about our purification. You make all things new, including fiery trials

Because of you, Lord Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die; and we don’t have to be afraid to live, either. By your grace, stoke the fire of affection in our hearts for you, so that at the very moment we’re tempted to turn to some false god deliverance or relief, we won’t. So very Amen we pray, in your beautiful and strong name.

 

Should Christians Have Doubts?

SOURCE:  Jonathan Morrow/Think Christianly

Real Christians don’t doubt. 

Or at least that’s the unspoken message you’ll find in many churches today.

Well, if that’s true then I guess I’m not a real Christian because I’ve had (and still have) my share of doubts at times. By the way, your parents, youth pastors, and parents have them too!

Pastor Tim Keller offers helpful insight:

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

As humans, we all have limitations. We all experience doubts simply because we cannot know everything about everything. So be encouraged, you are not alone. But in order to live with our doubts in a spiritually healthy and faith-building way, we need to be clear about what doubt is and isn’t.

First, as J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler point out, there is a difference between unbelief, doubt, and lack of belief.

Unbelief – someone willfully sets themselves against a biblical teaching (e.g., Jesus is not the Son of God).

Doubt – someone has an intellectual, emotional, or psychological barrier to a more secure confidence in a biblical teaching or in God Himself (e.g., I believe God is always there for me, but when bad stuff happens I struggle to believe this).

Lack of belief – someone doesn’t believe a biblical teaching or idea, but wants to (e.g., I need some help to believe).

Also, all doubts aren’t created equal; there are different flavors.

The two most common are intellectual and emotional doubts. Given a Christian understanding of faith as “confidence or trust in what we have reason to believe is true”—as opposed to ‘blind faith’ or wishing—the recipe for overcoming your doubts is not to somehow dig deep and crank out more faith by holding your breath and concentrating really hard. What you need to do is have the courage to “doubt your doubts.” Investigate. Seek the truth.

Here’s a place to start:

(1) be specific about what your doubts are—write them out and list reasons for / against

(2) start your investigation by reading the articles in this study Bible

(3) remind yourself that you are not the only one who has ever asked this question, and that 99.9% of the time a reasonable answer exists.

Sometimes emotional doubts look like intellectual ones. But the root cause turns out not to be unanswered questions at all. Some sources of emotional doubts:

(1) experiencing disappointment, failure, pain, or loss

(2) having unresolved conflict or wounds from our past that need to be addressed

(3) letting unruly emotions carry us away for no good reason

(4) being spiritually dry

(5) fearing to really commit to someone.

Also, it is crucial to remember that emotions are good and normal but they aren’t always right. They need to be examined.

I may be emotionally down, but that may have nothing whatsoever to do with my confidence that the New Testament is reliable, Jesus was who he claimed to be or that God really exists. When encountering emotional doubts, the best thing to do is to (repeatedly) tell ourselves the truth from God’s Word, invite God in to this by prayer, and then tell a trusted friend that we are emotionally struggling.

If you find yourself with doubts, you’re in good company (cf. Mk 9:24). But having the courage to doubt your doubts in the context of a thoughtful and caring community and investigating the root of these issues over time will lead to greater confidence as a follower of Jesus. That is what the journey of faith is all about.

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*A form of this article first appeared in a contribution I made to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, published by B&H.

Is God Good?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe God was good.

Like Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3, I accused him of being deceptive, capricious and unloving. I thought he was going to give me one of the deepest desires of my heart, and then suddenly it was snatched away. My heart fell into a deep pit, and it took a long time to climb back out.

How about you? Have you ever doubted the goodness of God?

We sing it, we say it, we know it, but truth be told, much of the time we don’t really believe it.

Most of us would acknowledge that we struggle trusting in God’s goodness during times of suffering. But it’s equally important to grasp that many times we don’t trust and obey God simply because we think we know better and want to be in charge of our own lives. Eve doubted God’s goodness even in the midst of paradise.

Things in life are not always what they initially appear to be. What looks good to us often turns out to be bad, and what feels bad to us can turn out to be good. As a child, I loved eating candy. It definitely tasted much better than meat or vegetables or even french fries and fruit. I ate so much candy my teeth decayed.

Going to the dentist felt bad, so I never wanted to go nor would I have chosen to. Thankfully my father saw beyond my foolishness and made me eat healthier and get my teeth fixed. It was good. Now that I’m grown up, I can see that, but at the time, I didn’t understand. I just thought my father was being mean.

In the same way, many times we can look back over the worst of times and see that they were also some of the best times of God’s goodness toward us. We see his provisions or experience his presence in deeper ways. From the vantage of history, we see that what we thought was bad, God used for good. In the Old Testament, Joseph was able to keep his peace and hope alive in the mist of circumstantial hardship because he knew that God’s purposes were always good (Genesis 50:20).

King David trusted in the goodness of God so completely that when God gave him a choice of what consequence he wanted for his sin, David told God to pick whatever he deemed best (2 Samuel 24:10-14).

Jesus knows this world is full of temptations, trials and hardships. Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells people that he is telling them the truth, that God knows best what we need. Yet what they heard from Jesus was so different than their own way of thinking and believing that for many, it wasn’t easy to recognize it as truth even when they wanted to.

The father whose son was demon possessed begged Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NLT). Belief and unbelief isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. We believe and we doubt. But the more we believe, the more we can trust. Richard Rohr says, “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s anxiety.”

What did Jesus tell those who asked what they must do to do the work of God? He said the work of God is to believe (John 6:28-29). Once we believe, trust follows.

To help you get started, slowly meditate on this verse, word by word: “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for you help” (Psalm 86:4,5 NLT).

In closing, take a few moments to ask yourself and answer the following questions:

How have you struggled believing God’s goodness?

Where do you not believe him?

How does your unbelief cause anxiety, guilt, or other happiness-robbers in your life?

How would you live differently if you believed with all of your heart that God is good?

Dear Lord, help my friends believe you in good times and in hard times. Help them trust that you are always good even when they don’t understand or it feels bad. Give them eyes to see that you are full of love and eager to forgive all their sins, all the time. Amen.

 

Drifting Away [From God]

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Genesis 3:1

SOURCE:  Strength For The Journey/RBC

On a recent vacation, Tom was casually bobbing around on a raft just offshore. He closed his eyes, basking in the warm sun. Before he realized it, he had drifted too far from shore. He hopped off the raft to get back to the security of the sand, but the water was now over his head. He didn’t know how to swim.

The drift of our lives away from God is just as subtle. And just as dangerous. We drift one thought at a time, one small choice at a time, and often one damaging doubt at a time. In fact, our adversary is delighted to help our rafts drift from the protection and presence of God by casting doubt on God’s goodness to us. If you sense that your life has been set adrift—that God is not as close and precious as He used to be—then you may have just been in the riptide of an old trick of the enemy of your soul. The same trick he used to sever Eve’s heart from the joy of her relationship with her Creator.

Satan’s opening volley was not a blistering attack on God; it was a simply a question that he wanted Eve to think about. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). Actually, God had said that she could eat of every tree but one. But Satan twisted the facts to suit his purposes and to lead Eve’s mind to the conclusion that God was not the generous God she had known Him to be, but rather a stingy, restrictive, joy killer. Once she had let her heart drift to the wrong conclusion, it was easy for her to believe Satan’s lie that God just wanted to keep her from being as knowledgeable as He is and that the threat of them dying was just God’s way of scaring them into compliance with His stingy ways.

Satan still sets us adrift by planting doubt about God’s Word and spinning the facts to his own evil advantage.

Once we begin to suspect God instead of trusting Him, we inevitably drift away from Him. So, beware! Your life is full of scenarios where Satan can put his deceitful twist on your experiences. He is the spin-doctor of hell, and as Jesus said, “When [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

With that in mind, keep a lookout for some of Satan’s favorite spins:

  • Lie #1: God is to blame for the evil that Satan has inflicted on our lives.
  • Lie #2: God has not rewarded me for being good. I’ve been used, not blessed!
  • Lie #3: God’s rules are restrictive and oppressive. He just wants to take the fun out of my life.
  • Lie #4: God is good to others but not to me. He must not love me!

And there are many other lies, all custom-made for your head and heart. If you believe them, you have begun to drift away from the safe shores of God’s love and protecting provision. You’ll soon discover that you are adrift in the middle of nowhere, bobbing dangerously over your head. And count on it, as Eve was soon to learn, Satan won’t stay around to make you happy and fulfilled. He’ll be slithering off to more interesting company, leaving you in the deep waters of shame and regret.

DO I Believe In God MORE or LESS Today Than I Did Yesterday?

WHAT IS SATAN’S GOAL?

SOURCE:  C. Michael Patton

One of the most perplexing questions I struggle with concerning Satan is this:

Wait . . . first let me get something out on the table. I believe in Satan. No, not as an impersonal force of evil. No, not as the sin which exists within all of us. And certainly not as God’s equal on the ying/yang opposite side of good. I believe Satan is an intelligent creature who seeks to upset God’s plan at every turn. I believe Satan was created good and turned bad. I believe he is on a leash – often to my bewilderment, a very long leash.

Okay, now that that is out of the way. . .

One of the most perplexing things I struggle with concerning Satan is this: Does he actually think he can win?

I don’t know. Maybe he is so deluded he thinks the impossible to be possible (ala Origen’s view). Certainly he does not have insider intel that pushes his odds of success up a bit. His odds of success are perpetually set at 0. His odds of success, relatively speaking, are about the same as mine would be should I attempt a coup to make all of God’s plans backfire. However, God does give him freedom and uses him in ways that are very strange to me.

I mean, he has read Revelation, hasn’t he? You know the end? The fire and brimstone stuff? (Rev. 20:10) Even (at least some of) the demons seem to recognize their eventual defeat (Luke 8:31). Therefore, I don’t suppose he thinks he is going to win, though I am not totally dismmissive of the idea that his mind is so messed up that he may have hope.

But knowing that Satan cannot really win, I ask a second question: What is his goal?

Come on. Isn’t he a Calvinist? Doesn’t he know he cannot thwart the purpose of God?

I am not sure we can speak of his goal in the singular unless we go very general and say that his goal is just to dethrone God. But that can be understood in many ways. Certainly he is not attempting to take his place as Creator God, for Satan, like us, cannot create anything! Certainly he is not trying to take God’s place as the Unmoved Mover, for Satan is time-bound and … well … moving.

It seems this simple: like us, Satan is infected with sin and acts irrationally, desiring to elevate himself to be the center of the universe. How does he do this? By attempting to silence the worship of God.

With people, I am sure we might say that he simply wants to keep us from believing in God. I think this is illustrated well with the Parable of the Soils, where the first soil falls on the path and Satan immediately takes it, so that no belief is ever birthed (Matt. 13:19). He does not want people to believe God. That is what he does with you and me.

He seeks to steal our belief in whatever way he can.

With Christians, however, I don’t believe this is possible. Nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). Surely he knows this. However, I don’t think he has a clue as to who the true believers are and who are representatives of the second and third seed in the Parable of the Soils. You know, the seeds that gain root, but don’t last? He does not know whether your belief is from God, or if it is something that can wither and die.

Either way, his goal is simple: the destruction of belief in God.

However, I don’t think we should conceive of this as outright atheism. This is especially the case when it comes to believers. All he has to do is handicap our faith so that it becomes ineffective or counterproductive. As you know, there are not many outright atheists in the world. There never have been. I doubt there ever will be. But this does not mean that campaigns for atheism are ineffective in the mind of Satan or that he is not cheering them on. Why? Because he knows that these campaigns, while not creating many atheists, are shaking foundations nonetheless.

While Satan’s aspirations may not be to create atheists, he does want people to believe less deeply and less accurately today than they did yesterday.

Remember the first confrontation humanity had with this creature in Eden? Remember what he said to Eve? He did not say, “God is not real. Don’t believe in him. You have never seen him. He does not really exist. We can explain existence through natural processes.” No, he just twisted God’s word ever so slightly. He affirmed God’s existence, but began to chop down God’s integrity. “God has not said . . . he just does not want you to be like him, knowing good and evil.” The result was not that Eve became and atheist or an outright unbeliever, she just doubted God’s truthfulness.

Whatever doubts he can bring about in your life, he will use. Maybe it is God’s existence. Maybe you are not on the verge of becoming an atheist, but you are believing less today than yesterday. From Satan’s standpoint, this is why he clocks in every day. Maybe you are doubting  God’s integrity, goodness, love, or plan. “Has God really said…?” is Satan’s message to you as he attempts to have you place God on whatever judgment stand he can. He hates God and he hates you.

It is not insignificant that when Christ taught the disciples to pray, he said about deliverance from Satan, “Deliver us from the Evil One” (Matt. 6: 13). I count six things Christ tells us to pray for. Six. That is it. Not one thousand. Not three hundred. Not even sixty-six. But six. Of these six, our battle against Satan is the subject of one of them. I think this is pretty significant.

There is a reason why the Bible begins by telling us about our confrontation with this odd creature. There is a reason why the end tells of his ultimate destruction. And there is a reason why the short Lord’s prayer tells us to recognize and pray about our battle with him. God has, for some reason, allowed him to roam. He is on a leash, but has been given permission. He wants to test your faith today. His goal right now is to make you believe less than you did before.

5 Myths About Suffering: See Your Pain From God’s Perspective

SOURCE:  Stacy Padrick/Discipleship Journal – NavPress

“Your blood pressure is fine,” said the nurse, leaving me to wait for the doctor.

“Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “please help the doctor find out what is wrong with my body.”

After leaving numerous doctors’ offices with no answers over the course of 18 months, I was desperately seeking a cure for the mysterious virus that often confined me to home and bed. I longed to reclaim my active lifestyle, resume working full time, and eventually return to the mission field.

“Hello, Stacey,” the doctor’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “How are you feeling?” As I began describing my symptoms, she nodded as if already suspecting the answer. When lab results confirmed her diagnosis, my hope of simply “getting over it” vanished, leaving me to live with the daily limitations of an incurable disease. As a previously energetic and ambitious 27 year old, I watched in fear as this illness crept into every area of my life, threatening my work, my ministry, my finances, my dreams, my relationship with the man I loved, and even my walk with God. I cried out to Him, groping to know His presence in the midst of my pain.

Suffering. Just hearing that word can make us cringe. Under the influence of a society that abhors even the thought of suffering, we seek to escape the reality of pain in our lives any way we can—television, busyness, entertainment, drugs. Suffering doesn’t fit with the world’s notion of success or with the theology of God’s goodness and victorious living in Christ we often espouse. Never mind that Jesus often spoke about suffering. Like Peter and the disciples to whom Christ revealed His imminent suffering and death, we, too, are tempted to respond, “Oh, that will never happen to you!” (see Mt. 16:22).

Yet is it possible that our view of suffering has been colored by pervasive myths we have unthinkingly accepted? As I’ve faced pain in my own life and turned to God’s Word for consolation, I’ve identified five myths that tempt us to shrink back, doubt God, or experience despair during times of suffering.

Myth 1: Suffering is negative and to be avoided at all costs.

How often do we pray to know Christ better? Quite often, most of us would say. How often do we pray to know Him better through suffering? If you are like me, seldom, if ever! Shortly after my diagnosis, I read Paul’s words in Phil. 3:10: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” I passionately prayed, “Yes, Lord, I want to know You better!” But as I came to the words that followed—”and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”—my tongue froze. The idea of praying for suffering made me shudder! Why would Paul pray for fellowship in Christ’s sufferings? I began to wonder if he knew something we unknowingly miss in our rush to avoid or “get through” suffering.

Scripture clearly teaches that affliction and tribulation work to make us complete and mature. James wrote,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

—Jas. 1:2–4

For the believer, suffering works on the seeds of faith in the same way manure works as a fertilizer. We abhor the stench of manure and, similarly, the agony of pain. Yet though it seems like waste material, suffering nourishes and feeds the growing fruits of faith and maturity in the garden of our lives. God does not waste any experience in our lives when we willingly surrender it to Him. Even Jesus, although He was God’s Son, learned obedience from the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8).

Truth: The spiritual fruit for which we often pray is fertilized by adversity.

Myth 2: We can only experience joy and peace when we are not experiencing pain.

Knowing that suffering develops character only partially comforted me at times. Though I tried to “consider it pure joy” as James advised, my emotions often swayed from peace to anxiety when my body battled unpredictable symptoms. How could I experience joy when I was losing my health, my independence, my dreams of returning to the mission field, and a love relationship?

The psalmist wrote: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5–6). When God gave me the seeds of sadness and brokenness, I wanted to cast them aside and implore Him to give me seeds of joy and peace instead. But then it struck me that joy and peace are fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), fruit which is often mysteriously born from seeds of suffering. Only as we willingly accept these uncomely seeds and allow Him to sow them in our lives will the lasting fruit of joy and peace bloom.

In 1873, Horatio Spafford, a prominent American businessman, waved good-bye to his wife and four daughters as they boarded a ship for Europe, where he was soon to join them. Days later, he received the shattering news that the ship had collided with another, and his four daughters had drowned in the Atlantic. Journeying to Europe to meet his wife, his ship sailed over the waters where his daughters had perished. As his tears poured forth, he returned to his cabin, committed his immense sorrow to God, and wrote the following: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: It is well. It is well with my soul.”

Not only did he experience God’s peace for himself, but with the seeds of his suffering, he sowed a five-stanza hymn that has brought comfort and peace to countless people in pain for more than a century.

Truth: Suffering and sorrow, when willingly accepted, become the seeds of joy and peace in our lives.

Myth 3: Suffering is a sign of God’s displeasure or judgment.

As months passed and God did not answer the many prayers of friends and family for my healing, I began to wonder, Did I do something to invite this? Is this a sign of God’s judgment of me? Then the enemy, prowling about for an opportunity to attack when my spirit and body had grown weary, tempted me to believe that God had condemned me or, at best, overlooked me. Yet turning again to Scripture, I found truth in Paul’s words: “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29, NASB).

Rather than a sign of God’s disapproval or neglect, adversity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. My pastor once said, “In God’s economy, sometimes the measure of our hurt is the measure of our success.” Why? Because suffering makes us more like the Author of our salvation. Allowing us to suffer is actually a sign of His grace! He cares so deeply for us that He will do whatever is necessary for us to know Him better and to become more like Him. God does not test us, as the enemy would have us believe, simply to see how much we can stand. Earlier in this century, an anonymous writer penned these words:

The very fact of trial proves that there is something in us very precious to our Lord; else He would not spend so much pains and time on us. Christ would not test us if He did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces us through the fiery ordeal.

Truth: Affliction allowed by God is a sign of His grace in our lives and His love for us.

Myth 4: Only voluntary suffering “for the sake of Christ” has spiritual value in the kingdom of God.

To sustain my spirit during the most difficult times, I meditated on Scripture about tribulation and claimed the promises and hope they offered. Initially, I found comfort in Peter’s words:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.

—1 Pet. 4:12–13

However, the enemy soon began tempting me with thoughts such as, These verses don’t apply to you! They are for those who suffer voluntarily for the sake of the gospel. Your affliction just happened; it isn’t a result of your obedience to God. As I read verse 14—”If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”—I had to concur that I was not being reviled for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the deceiver was right, and my affliction lacked real spiritual value.

Yet one night as I anguished over the apparent lack of purpose in my hardships, I stumbled upon a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Letters to an American Lady that challenged my narrow definition of suffering for Christ. Responding to a letter from a woman who laments about her many ailments and trials (from toothaches to budget problems), Lewis wrote: “Always remember that poverty and every other ill, lovingly accepted, has all the spiritual value of voluntary poverty or penance” (emphasis mine). What comfort these simple words brought!

As I committed my illness to God and asked Him to accomplish His will through it, my struggles no longer seemed in vain. Thomas À Kempis wrote, “Do not despair or be discouraged but accept God’s will calmly, bearing all that befalls you for the glory of Christ.” My disease, as frustrating and limiting as it was, could still be used for God’s glory.

Truth: All suffering can be used for God’s glory when we willingly accept and surrender our hardships to Him.

Myth 5: If God were truly good, He would remove this suffering from me.

As another year ended, I prayed once again, “Lord, may this new year be one of healing.” Even knowing the maturing benefits of affliction, I grew weary of the struggles. “Enough, Lord!” I wanted to say. “Haven’t I been pruned enough for a while?” How desperately I longed for Him to deliver me from the trials and bring restoration of the losses I had endured. If God was God, He could do that, right? If He were loving, He would do that, right? How tempted I was to believe that if God truly cared about me, if He were all powerful, He would take away the pain.

Yet as I continued praying, I stumbled upon a treasure I would have easily missed had I looked to healing as the only sign of His love. More often than not, God does not remove our suffering. He does something better: He enters into our suffering. The Lord Jesus enters into the fullness of our pain and bears it with us. He is the God who is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).

I finally understood why Paul prayed to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. The path upon which we come to know Him better winds through the valley of suffering. If we seek a detour around the valley, we forfeit a chance to walk alongside the Suffering Servant. To know Christ more intimately, to more fully identify with Him, I must share in His sufferings by experiencing it myself. Whatever the nature of our affliction, sharing our pain with Him forges a deeper bond of intimacy. Nothing—not healing, not restoration, not success—compares with the comfort and sweetness of this fellowship.

The jewels of suffering abound: maturing faith, growing obedience, increased fruit. Yet the greatest treasure I have found is deepened intimacy with Christ as I fellowship with Him in the midst of my suffering.

Truth: Suffering helps us identify with the Lord Jesus more fully and deepens our intimacy with Him.

The Mythmaker

Where do these myths originate? I believe they come from none other than the father of lies. The tempter has thoroughly duped us into believing that suffering is negative, a sign of God’s neglect or of our own failure. Why would Satan be so determined to tempt us to avoid suffering (and sadly, sometimes to avoid those we know who are suffering)? Because he knows that suffering is one of the greatest means to draw us closer to Jesus and teach us increasing dependence upon Him. Thus, he will do whatever it takes to entice us to run from it  . . . until God, in His grace, allows suffering from which we cannot run.

When Peter refused to accept Jesus’ imminent suffering and death, He responded, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt. 16:23). In the midst of our pain, we must refuse to accept Satan’s lies about suffering. When we believe that God loves us perfectly and that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), we need no longer submit to the fear of suffering.

We live in a fallen world where the prince of darkness rules. Trials, hardships, and adversity are more normal in this life than abnormal. If this life were absent of suffering, we might begin to mistake it for the real thing. Suffering makes us hunger for heaven, our real home, where God will wipe away every tear. Though we may never fully understand our suffering, we can rest in the hope that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Ro. 8:18).

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