Last week I began a series of posts about why God allows Christians to face difficulties and trials. On Thursday we explored Scriptures that confirm, “Yes, Christians will have trouble!” (Read that post now.) This week and next we will discover from the Bible four specific ways God uses our trials.
How could grief, pain, and difficulty ever be good? How could the death of a loved one bring rejoicing?
I’m sure Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha asked similar questions at the death of their beloved brother Lazarus. The Apostle John records this heart-wrenching story in John chapter eleven. (If you have time, pause now and read John 11:1-44.) When Lazarus became sick, his sisters sent for Jesus. They knew He had the power to heal. But Jesus tarried and Lazarus died.
Four days after Lazarus’ death, Jesus arrived at the family’s home in Bethany. Then Jesus did something unheard of. He asked for the stone to be rolled away from the tomb! “Uh, Lord,” Martha said. “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. It’s going to stink to high heaven. After all, the body has been in there four days.” (This is my paraphrase, by the way!)
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God” (John 11:40)? Still questioning, the gathered mourners acquiesced and moved the stone.
You know the rest of the story. Jesus commanded the dead man to get up and come out. And Lazarus did!
Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death but He purposefully stayed away (John 11:6). God had a greater goal in mind than the healing of a sick man would reach. “No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). God used the death of Lazarus to point people to the power and authority of Jesus.
Obviously God does not often work in this specific way. But He always works to bring glory to Christ in the midst of His children’s pain, difficulty, and yes, even death.
My mother-in-law was killed instantly in a car accident in 2004. The pain and grief for our family was unexpected and intense. But I could tell you story after story how God used the death of this godly woman to point people to His Son. For instance, the woman who was first on the scene held hands and prayed with my father-in-law and the other driver while they waited for the authorities. A few weeks later, this woman – who was lost and struggling – showed up at my father-in-law’s church. She wanted to find out more about a God who showed up during tragedy.
I know that we can’t always see God’s purposes in heartache this clearly. But God has allowed me to see Him in action. And because God’s Word says it’s true in all circumstances, I believe it.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28, NLT