Last week, one of my kids experienced something very troubling. After we sought comfort from the Scriptures, I asked, “do you have any idea why the Lord might have allowed this to happen?” There was no response. I said, “He’s kind. You’re clinging to Him far more tightly than you were before this, aren’t you?” “Yes.”
A few days later, as I lay in bed struggling to put some of my own stressors into Biblical perspective, I was moved by the Spirit to thank the Lord for trouble. In His kindness, He uses these things to leave us no choice but to run to Him.
What a wonderful thing if we could regard difficulty, trials, trouble…as a conduit of blessing. God is the source of all good things, including life, joy, peace, and love. Fellowship with Him is described as fullness of joy in Psalm 16. The psalmist also writes there, “I have no good apart from You.” Closeness to Him is the essence of blessedness. What draws us into this closeness more swiftly and surely than trouble?
A simple search through the Psalms for the concept of trouble shows that difficulty drives the faithful straight to the Lord’s side, where they find a stronghold of steadfast love, forgiveness, redemption, shelter, preservation, sustenance, comfort, revival, rest, and delight (Psa 6, 9, 25, 27, 32, 34, 41, 46, 50, 54, 71, 77, 86, 91, 94, 107, 119, 138). In a word, they find help. The evil of trouble drives them to the ultimate good who is God.
This is not to say that trouble itself should be desirable to us. We ought not wish for pain because of the pleasure that accompanies it. We’re not meant to crave trouble. In fact, our hope is the second coming of Christ when all trouble will be gone forever (Titus 2:11-13; Rev 21:4). However, trouble is tempered by the comfort derived by the necessity of clinging to Him. We don’t crave trouble, but the peace of fellowship with Him overwhelms that trouble. Trouble then can be considered a road to blessing in that it brings us to desire Him more than we would otherwise.
Paul’s words in 2 Cor 1:8-9 capture this dual nature of trouble: For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. Trouble is fearsome and it causes us great distress and pain, yet it does us the immense good us driving us to our great God and Savior.
Those who have walked with the Lord for years will testify that the sweetest fellowship they’ve ever known was during times of difficulty. On the other hand, times of relative ease are when we find ourselves most likely to drift from Him.
Trouble reminds us how needy we are and how sufficient He is. It displays how fleeting worldly pleasures are, but how eternal divine pleasures are. It removes our focus from the empty things of the creation and places it on the excellencies of the Creator. It gently forces upon us a desire for the one thing that will make the new heavens and new earth so magnificent: the comforting presence of the Godhead. When trouble drives us to the Lord, it brings a taste of heaven into this fallen world.
Those of us who are in trouble - in the midst of our lamentation, we should make room for thanksgiving. We should dare to enjoy the closeness with Him that our difficult circumstances necessitate.