AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Many trials are temporary. Annoying coworkers. Flat tires. Colds. School. Being unable to find your car in a parking lot. But there are some trials that last our entire lives. Missing limbs. Brains that are severely limited in cognitive function. Excessive weight. A hair type that is very difficult to manage. External features that our culture labels as ugly. Poverty. Mean siblings. There are some trials that we’re born with and they stick with us until we die. What is God’s point in saddling us with such burdens?
In the Church it is commonly taught that all trials are a form of Divine punishment. When we believe such rot, we end up drawing all kinds of wrong conclusions about how God views us. While some trials are certainly a means of God spanking rebellious brats back into line, we can hardly put lifelong trials in this category. No one is born on the wrong side of God. He does not create objects of wrath. God dearly loves every human He creates, and no problems arise between us and Him until we start willfully defying Him.
Now humans are not born good or nice. They are born as screaming, selfish little monsters who are filled with depraved desires. But there is beauty in the mix as well, and we see it poking through in the blunt honesty and wide, trusting eyes of children. It’s important to understand that none of us are born with an automatic knowledge of God. He must reveal Himself to us and illuminate our souls with the knowledge of who He is and what He wants from us. Until God reaches out to us, we can’t shove Him away. When we talk about “the age of accountability”, we are talking about the age at which God decides that a certain individual has received enough education from the Holy Spirit to make an informed decision about submitting to Him. The age of accountability comes at a different point in every person’s life. Some children are given understanding at a very early age, thus they become guilty of willfully defying God at a very early age. In other cases, a person might reach the teen years or even progress well into adulthood before God equips them with the information they need to become accountable to Him. It has nothing to do with favorites or certain people being more liked than others. It has to do with God’s eternal plans for us—we are all being shaped for different future purposes.
Now if God ends your life on earth before you become accountable to Him, then He takes you to Heaven. It is grace, not wrath, which God defaults to, and this is a very important point. There are those who try to say that children born with deformities or mental deficiencies are Divinely cursed. This is utter rot. The most wretched looking human is dearly loved by God, and if they die before He illuminates them with His truth, He joyfully sweeps them up to Heaven to be with Him for eternity. God does not treat us all the same. By now there have been zillions of souls who have breezed through this earth and gone on to Heaven without ever being given the option of defying God. All the babies we’re aborting today end up in Heaven. All the babies who were roasted to death in the Old Testament as living sacrifices to satanic idols ended up in Heaven. When you consider the mass amounts of carnage in the infant age range alone, Heaven has an enormous population of souls who never grew past a state of total ignorance concerning who God is and what He wants from them. Clearly these souls are on a different path than you are. And yet how comforting it is to know that we have a God who defaults to grace.
So then, when you are born, you are not yet accountable to God. The trials He saddles you with from day one have nothing to do with His disapproval or dislike of you. Lifelong trials are about directing your life down a particular path—a path which God has chosen to give you the best chance of reaching His best potential for you. You need to remember that God sees your life as an eternal story. This little blip of time which you think of as your life on earth is just the warm up. But this period is extremely important, for the choices you make now will affect the course that God chooses for you in eternity.
Directing a human life is an incredibly complex affair. Before He brought you into this world, God had already planned out all the other lives that He wanted your life to intertwine with. Consider a child who is born with a fully functioning body versus a child who is born blind. Just by changing a single element, God drastically changes the course of the blind child’s life. He will go on to deal with medical staff and experts in blindness that the child who can see would never have contact with. The blind child will end up meeting other blind children and learning skills that the child with sight will have no interest in. Many doors of opportunity will be closed to the child without sight. Is this a punishment? No, this is God directing the blind child down the path that will be the best for his soul in the long run. Lifelong trials have an enormous impact on the choices we make, the opportunities we seek out, and the kinds of questions we focus on in our relationships with God. If your life is one big bowl of cherries, you just aren’t going to be that interested in discussing the mechanics of spiritual refinement. But if your life is a bowl of pits, then suddenly you are very interested in learning about God’s involvement with evil and pain.
The Holy Spirit has a drawn up a unique curriculum for each one of us. He has a different list of priorities for each of us, and He carefully arranges our lives to help us align with those priorities. The next time you listen to someone’s dramatic testimony of how they found Jesus, pay attention to the kinds of events they describe and consider how God carefully orchestrated events and circumstances to drive that soul towards Him. So often we hear about the troubled childhood that led to deep wounds as an adult, and it was these wounds that drove the person to finally decide that they were in desperate need of God. So often the first part of these stories sounds pretty miserable, and if the speaker were to stop after only a few minutes, we’d find ourselves struggling with questions about why God is so cruel. But as the story continues, we start to see the beauty of His plan being revealed.
Your life is not some random set of events. Your trials are not being caused by bad genes, unfortunate timing, or other people’s rotten choices. Your life is being carefully orchestrated by God and He is extremely invested in drawing you closer to Him. Every trial is chosen by Him with a positive purpose in mind. You need to learn to see your struggles as individual threads which are being woven together by God into a beautiful tapestry. If you ask Him to have His total way in your life, you will get to experience the glorious end result of His genius at work. If you fight and resist Him at every turn, then you will end up with a sad compromise. Don’t let the longevity of your trials drive you into despair. The burdens that never let up are the most important ones, for they are playing a very critical role in keeping us on the right road.
Not all fabric weave is the same. Sometimes you can yank on a loose thread and it will snap off cleanly. Other times your small tug causes a gaping hole to open up because the thread you pulled on was playing a critical role in keeping all the other threads in place. Lifelong trials are like those key threads—if God were to suddenly remove certain trials from your life, a major flaw would appear in His final design. God has a very specific plan in mind for you and He is eager for you to experience His absolute best. He has worked out a very strategic plan for your life on earth, and He is going to block you from being able to escape the trials which He knows are critical for you to experience His best. Other trials He will let you escape from, so it’s not a sin to try and look for solutions. God will lead us to many solutions, and the vast majority of trials that He brings into our lives will only be temporary. As for the rest, we need to put our trust in God’s great love for us and His greedy desire for us to experience His absolute best.
Lifelong trials are not about punishment. They are not evidence that we’ve done something wrong or that we’re less loved. They are like guard rails that prevent us from exploring certain paths that God knows would lead us away from His best for us. We need to trust in His wisdom and in the goodness of His Character. God is for us. If we fully embrace His plan for us—trials and all—we will end up in a glorious place.
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