Is there anything you cannot see in the physical world, but believe exists anyway?
Our lesson takes on the topic of faith and believing in the unseeable and guarding against doubt. If the crucible teaches us anything, it is that our difficulties will give way to positives at some point. But that can be hard to believe, and God can be hard to trust if, as we have already noted, He Himself leads us into the fire.
Trusting God’s Graciousness
Even in trails, we can ask God for succor, for relief, or at least for endurance and wisdom. Jesus asks us to make our requests known to God, and believe we have received what we ask. We can assume our father wants to give good gifts to His children. Paul assures us of God’s love, presence, and desires for a world free from bondage to sin in Romans 8:18-39.
Can the path to all these desires lead through the valley of the shadow of death?
Asking God’s Will
We are still encouraged to ask God for good gifts (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13). Jesus encourages His disciples just after they see the cursed fig tree (see Matthew 21), “and all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” John also encourages us to ask, using the power of Jesus own name and credit (John 14:13-14), and God will do it.
Should we ask God to end our suffering? Knowing as we do that trials and pain can build character, how do I keep from becoming masochistic for spiritual benefit or like Martin Luther who sought penance through pain?
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane asked God to relieve Him of the cup of suffering. God’s response was not what Jesus wanted physically, yet Jesus conformed to God’s will. That was the only path for our salvation and Jesus’ ultimate joy. The crown of suffering comes before the crown of glory and victory!
Does a “no” answer from God regarding ending our suffering contribute to greater distress?
Relief from Anxiety
Many people today suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Then Jesus comes along and tells me not to worry, to stress about where my basic needs of food and water and clothing will come from. Yet I don’t stop worrying automatically just because Jesus asks mee too. Where does the role of relief from anxiety come in? 1 Peter 5:7 points to a place we can place our anxiety. But the exact way is not described.
How does someone put their anxiety on God? How can I rid myself of fear and worry? Will God come through and change my mental health even if I am struggling physically? Or can mental disease be part of the crucible?
For each situation, God wants us to stay in contact with Him, to ask our desires, to shape them according to His will, and He longs to be gracious as a good father would. But sometimes, the best outcome for me will lead through difficulties. For the same reason I don’t step in and relieve my daughter of her anxiety at a huge Chemistry exam or my son’s stress at work learning new management skills, God doesn’t always step in and intervene in our challenges. But He promises to be with us, and through our faith in what is unseen—His purpose!—we can endure.