Group Singalong: All by myself, don’t wanna be … all by myself …”
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Dark times come to all of us … those seasons where we can’t see God, we can’t sense him and we cry, as Christ did on the cross, “My God, My God … why have you forsaken me?” I have heard many a sermon that says Jesus cried out because God turned his back on him. If you look back at the three gospel accounts that mention this scene, we do not find scripture that supports this. Could it be that Jesus in a moment of humanity, with the weight of the sin of the world on his shoulders, in the agony of the cross, immersed in darkness, could no longer see God? Could it be that in our dark times, when we lose the awareness of God, and it feels like he is a long way away, that he is actually right there with us and has not forsaken us at all?
All too often, those going through hard times hear well meaning words from other Christians … words designed to comfort, that instead inflict further pain … words such as, “well, God is testing your faith and won’t let you go through any more than you can handle.” When we hear statements such as these, sermons about God turning his back on his Son, or go through dark times, it can cause us to wonder, “Just who is this God that we worship?” Lets look a bit closer at this.
God Will Never Allow Us To Go Through More Than We Can Handle
Firstly, lets look at the scripture that this idea comes from. 1 Cor 10-:13b says, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
God won’t let us be WHAT? Tempted. This scripture is not about our trials and hardships. It’s about temptation! The context of 1 Cor 13 is Paul discussing the various temptations that the Israelites had succumbed to. Nevertheless, lets break down this scripture. In our dark times, we can be tempted and there are some principles here that we can take to heart.
Faithful comes from the Greek word “Pistos”. This means “worthy of trust”. We can take that idea into our hard times. God is worthy of our trust. I will deal with this idea more fully further on.
Tempted comes from the Greek word “Peirasmos”. This means, “a trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy – an enticement of internal temptation to sin.” It can also mean, “adversity, affliction and trouble that tests one character” but this is clearly not the context of 1 Cor 13.
Provide A Way comes from the Greek word “Poieo”. This means, “make ready, make a thing out of something.” I LOVE this idea! God takes something that exists and then makes something new! He is the creator God – endlessly creative. Not only does he create great things out of nothing, he takes something already in existence and can make something new out of it! We don’t have to be able to handle the situation. It is God’s job to handle it. It is our job to look to and lean on him. How full of hope and promise is that when are walking through tough situations?!
God Sends Trials To Test Us.
This idea implies that God is the author of our misfortune. This is not the God I know! My God is not a God who sends horrific tragedies on his children and watches impassively to see if we pass the test.
In The Shack, God tells Willy the following:
"Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colours."
We live in a fallen world … a world where there is sickness … a world where there is evil and a world where bad things happen to good people. Does this mean God sent these things? No! Do these trials and tragedies test our faith? I would have to say, “yes!” These are the very fires through which our faith is tested and proven … but not tested like a classroom test. Instead our faith is tested in the manner of precious metal. The fire burns away the dross and gets down to the core.
James 1:2-4 says that we are to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many different kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. It goes on to say that perseverance must finish its work in us so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.
Be very careful about how you handle this scripture with those going through hard times. Do you get to tell the newly wed who just lost his wife to consider it joy? Do you tell the woman who just saw dearly loved friends shot and killed by evil men while she sheltered her husband and child, that God is testing her? No. Can God bring good out of this? Yes. He is the creator God. He can work good in all things and take that which was meant to destroy us bring good out of it.
If we break down this scripture, we get a little more insight:
Testing comes from the Greek “dokimion”, which means proving. Our trials do test and prove our faith, but as mentioned earlier, this does not mean God sends them.
Perseverance (sometimes translated patience) comes from the Greek word ”Hupomone” which means, “steadfastness, constancy and endurance.” It also means, “someone not swerved from deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings”. Wow. There is the idea here of choice. In our hard times, we have a choice to see God seated on the throne. We have a choice to lift our eyes up to our God. We have a choice to focus on him instead of circumstances.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two of This Blog: Never Alone