In my 25 years as a pastor, I’ve been through and witnessed some pretty tough experiences. I remember answering the phone in the middle of the night and finding out someone’s teenager was in the ICU. I counseled a man whose wife left him after 20 years of marriage. And I have prayed for many people who were battling cancer.
I can also remember going through one of my first difficult experiences when I was a brand new Christian in my early twenties. I had this naive thinking that went something like this: “I know Jesus and if I obey Him then life will be fair and good to me.” This faulty thinking was setting me up to blame God for things when bad things happened.
And then it happened. One my college buddies got into a serious accident. He crashed headlong into a house and severed his spinal cord, which left him paralyzed. It was a miracle that he even lived because he also suffered severe internal bleeding.
I remember visiting him in the hospital and being so mad at God! What kind of God would let this happen? My friend was a devoted Christian and he was such a good, loving guy. I thought to myself, “I don’t get it… you do good things, and good things happen right?” But my thoughts weren’t living up to reality.
What many Christians don’t understand – and what I didn’t get then – is everybody has these types of broken-world experiences – even believers. No one is immune to suffering or exempt from experiencing difficulties in this broken world.
The fact is we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Take a look at Peter, Paul and Jesus — they all suffered, yet all of them exemplified what it meant to honor God and live in righteousness.
I like to offer three observations about our broken world that we as Christians need to know:
- Trials are inevitable. Bad times aren’t a possibility – they are a promise. It’s why Peter warned us, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) Jesus’ last words on Earth were similar: “In this world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33) We should expect to have broken-world experiences.
- Trials tend to make us or break us. What do Helen Keller, Corrie ten Boom and Abraham Lincoln have in common? They are some of the greatest people who have made the greatest impact, yet have been through some of the most horrendous times. So how did they do it? They choose to see their trials as opportunities to make them stronger instead of allowing them to make them bitter.
- Victims fail to move beyond asking “why” and remain stuck in their pain. Victims are negative people that always complain about their hardships. They only ask, why? To ask why briefly is normal but to stay there is lethal. The key to moving beyond the broken-world experience is to begin asking questions that begin with what? Once we get through the emotional grieving pain, I encourage you to ask God, What do you want me to learn, God? What do you want to do through me?
When we experience a broken-world experience, it’s not because God is down on us or is punishing us. He loves us deeply and wants to help us through our trials. So let’s choose to place our trust in our all-knowing, all wise, and infinitely good God, who wants to strengthen us and help us navigate through our broken world.
This week, we’re beginning the series Rebuilding Your Broken World. In it, we will delve deeper into James 1 to learn how to redefine the way we view trials as well as how to respond to discouragement or temptations. It’s my prayer that as we journey together, you will find healing and restoration even amidst difficult circumstances.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge