Points Covered: In this world of pain and hurts, where is God when it hurts? What is God doing when a believer is going through pain, trouble, and hurt in life?
Introduction: There is lot of suffering and pain in this world that we are living in. Maybe you have been diagnosed with sickness or you lost your job or a loved one passed away or your prayers are taking a long time to be answered. Despite doing your best, your condition is the same. On one side you are God’s child, doing everything the best you can but on the other side, you don’t have an answer to the pain you are going through. You are asking to “Where is God when it hurts?”
Illustration: I remember as a young boy I wrote a very competitive exam and I had a lot of plans laid up after I finish the exams. I went and took prospectus from different universities and planned for a great career only to realize that I failed in one subject that too for the subject I studied well with one marks. My world had come to an end and I had no answer why.
I remember another time after having settled in a good work in Bangalore, I resigned just because I got a great an opportunity to work in Singapore. I was selected out of many people. I got the appointment letter from one of the reputed firms in Singapore. I surrendered my passport and paid my visa and work permit charges, only to find out a couple of weeks later that my visa had been rejected because of government policies. My dreams shattered. I did not know why? I never got any answer why I was going through hardships?
Maybe you are having the same question today – Where is God when it hurts?
Many people think that God has given them a tough life, whereas some others are having an easy life. Sometimes we feel that we suffer far more than others. But this is simply not the case, everyone has unique troubles. Your friends may not have the same trouble as yours; you may not have the same problems as mine. Everyone has their own share of struggle but the Lord has promised to be with us and deliver us from all our troubles.
Psalm 34:19 18The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. In the Bible, from Abraham to David to Apostle John, all were afflicted, all were in trouble, yet all came out of their trouble as heroes of faith, stronger, and higher. It does not mean that God enjoys putting us through trials. In the world of sin we are living in, there is pain but God will deliver the righteous out of it.
1. God tests our heart in our hurts.
Do we believe and trust God even in the midst of pain and suffering? Do we believe in the promises of God even when everything looks impossible? Do we trust in God even when we do not understand His ways in our lives? Our trials can be a test of our faith.
Deuteronomy 8:2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Every trial the Israelites went through from the Red Sea to the Promised Land was a test of their faith; God was testing their heart whether they would be faithful to him.
We know the test Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego went through. When King Nebuchadnezzar asked the people to fall down and worship the golden image he made, they said, “No, Even if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
As a result, they were bound and cast into the furnace that was made seven times hotter. As the king and people were watching, there was a fourth person in the fire. See what the King said: Daniel 3:25-27 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
God tested them and they proved to be faithful. Eventually, God promoted them. Daniel 3:30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
When we are going through a hurt, God is right there testing our heart, but there is always a promotion when trust in God. All those of who are going through trials, understand God is with you and a promotion is on your way.
2. God directs us in our hurts.
Unaware to us, God is directing us when we are going through a hard phase in life.
In 1 Kings 17, after telling the super prophesy of his life to King Ahab, Elijah was led by God to hide in Kerith Ravine. God directed the ravens to bring him bread and meat in the morning and evening; he also drank from the brook. When the whole country was in famine and drought, God’s servant was amply supplied. But sometime later the book dried up because there was no rain in the land. The ravens stopped bringing food. Oh! All of a sudden Elijah is in a great problem. No job, no ministry, no food, and now no water. Can you imagine the thoughts that would have gone in Elijah’s mind? God, you sent me here and now and now all is see is a dry stream and no food. Probably, he would have felt like giving up. Elijah would have felt that was the end of the road for him.
When you study this story further, this hurt was for a change. God sent Elijah to Zarephath and provided a widow to take care of him. When God dried the brook, God had already prepared everything needed for him at Zarephath. God was directing Elijah to a new destiny. Sometimes God brings a hurt to get us moving. Maybe you lost a job or a friend has betrayed you. Don’t give up in your trials, look by faith there is a greater destiny coming your way.
3. God corrects us in our hurts.
God can also use our hurts to correct us. There are other times when we are wrong. We have strayed into sin, we have made wrong choices and we need God’s correction.
Jonah disobeyed God. He went the opposite direction. Finally, he was thrown into the sea. He should have been killed in the middle of the sea. God is so good, even before he could repent God sent a great fish and kept him alive in the sea. Jonah repented in the belly of the fish and God brought him out of that situation and led him back to the direction God wanted him to take.
Do you remember the parable of the prodigal son who took his share, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living? After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, & he began to be in need. So he went & hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. His wrong choices, his sin brought him to this condition. Finally, the problems got so much for him and he felt so defeated that he decided to correct his attitude & his actions and go back to his father’s house. He went back as a slave or a servant but the father accepted him back as a son.
Do you realize that when we deliberately stray from what we know is right, God has promised to correct us? Hebrews 12:5-6 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” We have all made mistakes, we have all made choices like Jonah, but that does not change God. He loves you and is still drawing you closer to him and if you can repent, he will forgive us and will bring us out.
Some of you may tell, “Pastor you do not know the mistakes I have made, you do not know my situation, my life has gone too far I cannot get back to God.” I may not know those issues, but I know God who is a forgiver, who is a restorer and he has never given up on you. Maybe God has taken away a bad friend or he has exposed your double Christian standards or sin. Remember, this is not the time to get bitter, God is in it and he is correcting you. When you get back there is going to be joy and rejoicing.
4. God protects us in our hurts.
Sometimes God uses failures and problems to protect us. Joseph was obviously his father’s favorite son. And as a result of this favoritism, his brothers were filled with hatred and bitterness towards him. Then one day in their hatred they sold him as a slave to a caravan traveling to Egypt. It all happened so quickly. One moment he was the favorite son, getting anything he wanted and the next he was in chains and being sold into slavery.
Life couldn’t seem to be any worse for Joseph. He felt defeated, lonely, unloved, rejected but God had a purpose & a plan for what he was going through. God took him out of slavery and made him a ruler in Egypt, second only in power to Pharaoh. Years later, during the time of a severe famine, Joseph saw his brothers once again when they came to Egypt to beg for the privilege of buying food. They had no idea that this Egyptian ruler standing before them was Joseph. Finally when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, they were petrified with fear & begged Joseph not to kill them.
See what Joseph said back to his brothers. Genesis 45:7-8 7 God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. Joseph probably felt defeated and a failure until this very day, away from his family, but now he realized it was God’s protection upon Joseph’s life. He got a new perspective now. Remember through Joseph’s trouble God even protected his family. Genesis 45:5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
Are you going through trials, heartache, hardships or hurt in life; unbeknownst to you God’s hand of protection is all over you.
5. Hurts make us rely on God.
Sometimes it is only when we are crushed and down that we see the face of God, and we wholeheartedly learn to trust in him.
See what Apostle Paul has to about his hardships: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
Scholars say that the trial was the great riot that broke out in Ephesus mentioned in Acts 19. The life of all the Christians in that city was under threat. Paul must have gone through some unusual emotional stress and physical threat during this time. The RSV version says that Paul was utterly, unbearably crushed. He came to the lowest the human spirit can come to, the uttermost sense of despair. He said, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death.” It was absolutely hopeless; he had given up; there was no way out. But then he adds, but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. Paul says very clearly that the trial was to refocus his attention back to God.
After going through the trial see what Paul says: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Paul says it very boldly that hurts, hardships, and trials cannot destroy a child of God, but in fact it promotes us. Your challenges cannot destroy you, it cannot stop you, and you will not be crushed. Amen! One of the major reasons God sends us suffering is to refocus our trust in God.
Conclusion: God is at work in your life even when you do not recognize it or understand it. He’s in the storm with you. He’s calling you to rise above it, rise above your situation.
Illustration: Do you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. When the storms of life come upon us we can rise above them by setting our minds toward God. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Romans 8:28 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.
It means that God is working through everything that happens in our lives, and no matter what the problem or heartache may be, God will turn it around for you and in the process make you in the image of his Son. Amen.