We sometimes want life to be so simple: if you do good, good things will happen to you; if you do bad, bad things will happen to you. To be sure, there are many people who have proven the last part of this formula. Their actions have had consequences which have apply repaid the evil they originally did. But evil goes unpunished enough to entice people to continue to try it. In the same way, bad things continue to happen to good people, and that not just as a result of mistakes that they have made.
Jesus lived a perfect life and yet scripture can describe Him as a man of sorrows (Isa. 53:3). He suffered opposition at every turn and had no place to lay His head. He was crucified for crimes that he did not commit. And Peter writes that in His suffering, He became our example (I Pet. 2:21).
Job likewise was a man whom God could boast of before Satan and yet calamity befell him: he lost all his children and all his riches. His friends urged him to repent of his sins; they reasoned that he must have had some bad ones since such bad things were happening to him. Job himself struggled to understand how such bad things could happen to an innocent man. By the end of the book, God responded to Job. But instead of answering his questions, He basically told Job that there were some things beyond his comprehension.
Both Paul and James encourage Christians to find joy in their suffering (Rom. 5:3-4; Jam. 1:2-4). The reason they give is that suffering teaches us how to endure and that endurance produces the kind of character that gives us hope. We need character and we need patience, but we often want to acquire them magically, without any effort on our part. Unfortunately, God has not constructed the world in this way. As the saying goes: no pain, no gain.
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to compare the slight momentary afflictions that we go though in this life with the eternal weight of glory which God has for us in the next (II Cor. 4:17). The picture is one of glory so heavy that we must become strong enough to carry it. The only thing in this life so heavy is trouble. So we are in training, trying to grow strong enough to carry the glory which God wants to give us.
No, life is not as simple in this world as we would like it to be. But we believe that life is not restricted to this world. Jesus has blazed the trail to the next world. It is there that the glory for our good here will be awarded. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and things will work out better that we could have hoped.
Copyright © 1993, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.