“Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.'” (Job 1:9-10)
Conditional faithfulness is one of the purest of oxymorons. If your faithfulness to God is conditional upon His blessings to you, then you have turned Him into nothing more than a wish-granting genie. We reduce Him to an impersonal “force” to be manipulated and used to further our own will. And when we do not get our way, we cry out like a petulant, rebellious child and cast blame.
More often than not, we initially tend to cast blame upon Satan for the negative experiences of our lives. Meanwhile we coyly acknowledging the faithfulness of God, while silently harboring resentment towards Him for allowing such circumstances to occur. All too often, the refrain echoes, “If God is so good, why does He allow suffering to occur in this world.” If we don’t express the words verbally, I would venture to say we easily harbor the resentment deep without our psyche until it eventually corrupts our spirit and quenches the Word of God in our hearts. Eventually it becomes evident in our actions as we withdraw from the body of believers and ultimately from God Himself. And that is what Satan is wagering upon.
The apostle Paul was intimately familiar with suffering. Many times through his missionary journey’s he was assaulted, beaten, cast into prison, shipwrecked, and all forms of other maladies until he was ultimately beheaded in Rome for his faithfulness. But it is through these trials and tribulations he was able to write:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
We do not always know why suffering exists in this world. Each situation is different. For some, the simple reality is that we have brought suffering upon ourselves through our own sin (Job 5:17). For others, it is God testing our faithfulness in an effort to develop and grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Still other situations are God’s way of drawing us closer to Himself so that we might experience His comfort (1 Peter 5:10). “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
Let suffering have its perfect end in hope. Hope is that singular quality that produces life, even in the midst of death. In the words of Christ Himself, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)