I was having a conversation with my friend the other day (the one I have lots of spiritual conversations/debates/q&a sessions with). One thing she continues to struggle with is the fact that God allows suffering when he could prevent it or fix it. My bout of cancer is something she has always found greatly unfair – she feels that since I am a person who follows God, he shouldn’t have allowed me to go through something that difficult. I was trying to explain to her that the struggles in my life are what have drawn me closer to God, and she said something along the lines of “Well, that stinks. God makes you suffer so you can worship him better?”
I didn’t have a good answer for that, but it’s been on my mind for the last few days. What I realized is that having everything go smoothly and easily is a very shallow and surface form of happiness. It’s more of a lack of problems than a presence of true joy. My deepest joy comes when I am truly depending on God, when I’ve reached the end of trying to control things, and I once again realize I can’t control anything anyway, and release it to him. It’s when I remember that he is right there with me, holding my hand and saying “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” That’s a joy that is more real and more lasting than having circumstances go smoothly. Seeing my faith tested and come out true is more precious than going through life without any speed bumps. Knowing that no matter what, I can depend on God’s faithfulness is a rock that I can build on – being happy because everything is going nicely is just sand that can wash out from under me.
And here’s the thing – when my kids were little, they loved ice cream. If I let them, they would eat it all the time. But if I did let them, they would have no appetite for the good food they needed. I think the Christian life is the same way. If circumstances are always easy and pleasant, we have no real appetite to dig into the promises and help that we can find in God’s Word. We are satisfied with what should be the “dessert”, and lose our desire for the main course. But when the sweets are held back and times get difficult, we get hungry for what we truly need in life, which is intimacy with God, a deep knowledge of Jesus and what he has done for us, time in the Word. And just like I loved to take my children out for ice cream treats, God loves to bless us with good things. He just doesn’t want us to fill up on the love of this world and lose our taste for what he has prepared for us.