I once heard someone preach that if things were going wrong in your life; if you had trials you must be doing something wrong. This troubled me greatly as I was going through some really awful trials, so I took a quick personal inventory. It turns out that, while I was far from perfect, there were really no sins or misdeeds that could possibly warrant the depth of the tribulations I was enduring. When I was much younger, I remember asking God, "What am I doing so wrong that I have to suffer like this?"
Asking such questions only seeks to place blame and could cause good faithful people to turn away. I have had children ask me, "Why does God, if he is so good, allow this kind of suffering?"
While we sometimes suffer the consequences of our choices, other times we are blessed with obstacles for our own growth.
Over the course of many years and much studying and prayer, I have learned that there are a number of reasons why bad things happen, and a number of things we need to do.
To prove we are faithful, no matter what
When we suffer or see others suffer, it is not a time to question but a time to prove our faith. If a trial can shake our faith, perhaps we need to find a way to fortify it.
As a call to action
Often when we have trials or see others going through them, it is a call to action for us. What can we do to initiate change? Can we advocate? Can we pool our resources and provide aid? Can we band together and create change?
To help us grow and learn
As in the old adage about taking lemons and making lemonade, we need to ask ourselves what we can learn from our experiences. If we don't learn, they were wasted. If we don't grow, we blow an opportunity. No bad fortune is wasted if we use it to build on.
To allow us to see the depth of our faith
I love the story of Abraham and Isaac. I once got to hear a Biblical scholar expound on the story and help me see it in a whole new light. God knew Abraham and how he would respond with obedience. But by allowing him to go to the very brink, Abraham learned himself how obedient he was. This was an invaluable lesson to him. How many of us would go through with such a thing if we were asked to?
To prove we can let go and let God
When we are blessed with trials, sometimes they affect our lives with an inability to eat properly or sleep soundly. That is the time to pray and turn it over to him. Ask him to take over just for the night, allow you to get a solid night's sleep, and then assure him that you will take back over in the morning and sort things out.
When trials subside and we get a breather, we need to appreciate the breaks and acknowledge how good our lives really are. It is also a time to fortify for the next potential onslaught. We can never really let our guard down. Instead, we need to be constantly nourishing our faith.
When one of my daughters was 4 and going in for pre-school immunizations, she turned to me and said, in front of an astounded nurse, "Thank you for loving me enough to bring me in for my shots." I know that sweet little medical professional must have thought we were off our nut, but my girl never even whimpered. She just accepted that this was a part of life that was painful but necessary and endured it with gratitude. To this day, her attitude pretty much remains the same. She came that way. I can't take the credit.
So here is the proclamation and some questions we need to ask when things get rough. In our prayers, we need to thank God for believing in us enough to give us trials. We need to ask him what he would have us learn from them. We need to formulate a plan of action (if there is one) and ask him if that is what we should do. We need to ask for his blessings on our efforts. We need to act as we believe we should. We need to hold our heads high, knowing that he loves us enough to allow us to prove ourselves in his sight. We need to constantly seek out opportunities to help others through their trials and share our faith with them. When necessary, we need to turn things over to him, strengthen ourselves and then tackle them once more.
One thing more. We need to acknowledge his help and guidance and not become prideful with the attitude that we did it alone. The truth is, we don't. We are his children and as a dutiful and loving father, he is always there watching over us and blessing our lives.