By Dr. Charles Stanley
Believers have a choice about how they will respond to life’s “storms.” Either they can cast blame while becoming resentful and bitter, or they can turn to the Lord and ask, “What is Your purpose?”
Since recognizing God’s purpose and plan is the way that faith grows, Christians have the right to ask “why?” Like a child learning new concepts, we see that when x happens, God does y, just as He promised. If we could choose the number of difficulties we want to face in a month, most of us would pick zero. Yet, God sees value in difficult times.
For instance, in the Old Testament, King David made destructively wrong choices for which God allowed cleansing storms into his life. The leader of the nation had wandered off the right path, but painful experiences drove him back to the center of the Lord’s will. We might consider the divine method cruel, but David would disagree. He wrote, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps 119:67, 71).
When a storm rages into our life, the Lord is already planning how to turn destruction into good. Just like David, we need to seek His objective and learn to work with Him to achieve it. We must believe that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Rom 8:28). The promise of that verse is that we will reap blessings from our losses. Through the Lord's mighty power, He uses trials to accomplish His plans–to grow us from children into mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
1. One purpose God has for us is a growing intimacy in our relationship with Him. But He knows we struggle to put Him first over our interests. Many of us place higher priority on family and friends than on companionship with God. For others, finances, work, or even personal pleasures interfere. When the Lord sees that our attention is drifting away from Him, He might use hardships to draw us back so we'll refocus.
2. Another reason God allows difficulties is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Pain is a tool that brings areas of ungodliness to the surface. God also uses it to sift, shape, and prune us. The sanctification process, the building of Christlike character into our lives, starts at salvation and ends with our last breath.
3. A third purpose for stressful circumstances is to reveal true convictions. Our faith is tested in tough times. It's easy to say, "God is good," when life is peaceful. But when everything goes wrong, what do we believe about Him? Do our words and actions reveal an attitude of trust?
King David endured much heartache: a disintegrating family, personal attacks, and betrayal by close friends. But through his trials, he gained deeper intimacy with God, stronger faith, and more godly character. Won't you let God accomplish His purposes in your present situation?
Returning believers to right fellowship is only one of God’s purposes for a season of trials. Some difficulties are meant to blow away all distractions so we can focus our attention on the Lord. Other “storms” break our worldly mold so that we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Our personal pleasure is not the top priority. God’s primary concern is to shape a wise and obedient follower who loves Him.