God has purpose behind every problem in life. Madame Guyon said "It is the fire of suffering that brings forth the godliness." God uses every painful circumstance for developing out character and courage. Jesus has warned His disciples about the forthcoming suffering they had to face in near future. Also, Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulations, but be good cheer, I have overcome the world." [St. John 16:33, KJV].
A crisis whether it is sickness, loss of close family members or relatives, or close friends, or financial troubles, or any other; should be considered as a character building opportunity. More difficult the problem is, grater would be the potential for building up spiritual and moral strength after successfully gone through it. The Bible often compares trial and tribulations to 'a metal refiner's fire that burns up the impurities of the metal. St. Peter clearly stated, "These troubles come to prove that your faith in Christ is pure. The purity of faith is worth more than gold" [1 Peter 1:7]. How should we respond to crisis in life?
All people do not respond to the painful situations the same way. For some, it is unbearable and desperate, but somehow they take it as the will of God. Few may end their life out of desperation. Some people turn to be pessimistic and say there is no God. However, a true believer in God, would take it without questioning God or complain to anyone and finally become a witness for God's mercy and care. Let us look into the ways as Christian, how to face the critical circumstances in life.
The real example of responding to crisis in the life is Jesus Christ Himself. He has shown it through His life and actions when He lived on the earth. Before His crucifixion Jesus prayed, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done/ [St. Luke 22:41] He knew that He had to face the cross one day and He was well prepared for it. So He set His life and actions towards fulfilling His Father's will for which He came on the earth. His Father wished that the world which He created should not perish due to sin, but be redeemed. "God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." [St. John 3:16 KJV]
There are so many other testimonies in the Holy Bible to justify that God works through everything for the good of people.
God told prophet Jeremiah, "For I know the plans I have for you, the plans for welfare and not evil, to give a future and hope." [Jeremiah 29:11, RSV]
Joseph, son of Jacob, had gone through several bitter experiences in life. He faced jealousy and hatred from his brothers; he was sold to the merchants as a slave by his own brothers. But in the end he realized God's plan for him was good when he became the ruler of the land of Egypt. His brothers came to him from Canaan for buying food materials during the severe famine. But Joseph did not show them any anger or vengeance, but treated them with brotherly love and care. He told them, "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good... that many people should be kept alive." [Genesis 50:20 RSV] Joseph was such a man of God. We come to know why Joseph was so good which we listen to the king Pharaoh's certificate about Joseph's character, "Can we find such a man as this, in whom is Spirit of God? [Genesis 41:38 RSV] In Joseph's heart there was the Spirit of God working. That is how he survived all crises in life and saved the nations from the famine. It was a miracle. Those who have the Spirit of God in the heart can become tools in the hands of God for loving and caring others.
Hezekiah, the king of Judah, wrote after his life-threatening sickness healed, "Lo, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness." [Isaiah 38:17 RSV]
Job, a man of righteousness, had gone through fire of agony and great material and family losses. After his healing from the sickness and regaining all he lost, he said to the Lord, "I had heard of Thee by the hearing of my ear, but now my eyes see Thee." [Job 42:5 RSV] problems are eye-opening experience.
St. Paul had gone through severe persecutions as seen in Cor. 4:8-9. But for him these sufferings were temporary, and to prepare him for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparisons. [2 Cor. 4:17] St. Paul again said in his epistle to Romans, "For all who are led by the Holy Spirit of God are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him. [Romans8:17]
Should all suffering be according to the will and plan of God? Here is one thing that we have to be cautious about. The above mentioned painful circumstances were of righteous characters. But there is suffering due to sins and that is not God's plan, but the consequences of sin and disobedience. Examples are:
Adam and Eve disobeyed command of God and they got out of the paradise and lost all the comfort and joy they experienced in the Garden of Eden.
Sin leads to suffering and losses. It is indicated in the question asked to Jesus by His disciples about the man born blind, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind." [St. John 9:2 RSV It indicates that there was a belief that sin causes suffering. Jesus did not oppose that theory. When He healed the paralyzed sick man He said to him, "My son, your sins are forgiven." [St. Mark 2:5 RSV] Immediately, he got up and walked carrying his bed in front of all those present there. Some of the situations, not all, may due to sin and satanic work.
Give thanks and rejoice:
Another true response towards suffering is to be thankful to God and be joyful. St. Paul said, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you"(1 Thess. 5:18 KJV). "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4 KJV).
Do not give up:
Be patient and hopeful because the character building process from suffering will be very slow. Perseverance is required. When encounter with trouble, do-not ask God, 'why me?'. Instead, ask Him, 'What do you want me to learn out of this painful situation?' Then trust in God, and keep on doing what is right, pray and remain patiently. Then, you shall receive 'what is promised.' It is said, 'my righteous shall live by faith.' (Heb. I0:38, RSV)
Do not give up, but grow up in Spirit and grace of God. Submit everything to God with prayers and supplications. May the Ecumenical fellowship be an instrument to encourage people to lead a spiritual life and enable them to face crisis in their lives. May God bless all.
Note: Madam Guyon is a French woman who was a mystic and an advocate ofQuietism.