We all have problems, some big, some small, and some that feel big but are actually quite small. Some problems we bring on ourselves (like overloading our schedules), but some seem to come out of nowhere (like many illnesses).
“Pure joy” feels impossible
when I’m in the middle of
The Scriptures call such problems “trials” and teach us to consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2) because of what we gain from the experience, namely perseverance and spiritual maturity. I don’t know about you, but “pure joy” feels impossible when I’m in the middle of something difficult! The promise of increased perseverance and maturity does help, but still. But there is a greater, higher reason for our problems. Read on…
These days, most believers understand that our problems aren’t necessarily punishment for sin. They may be part of the consequences—the result of our non-Christ-centered decisions (read: sin)—or part of God’s plan to get our attention, but illness, death, even financial straits aren’t God’s retribution evidenced in His followers’ lives. In Jesus’ day, however, the standard assumption was that afflictions/problems/trials were punishment for personal or inherited sins. It was natural for people to ask, “Why is this happening to me?”
Our first reaction
is often “Why me?“
But we still ask that question, don’t we? Our first reaction to a problem, our first prayer, often begins with us saying, “Look at me, Jesus! Why me?”
There was a man who was born without sight. We don’t know the details. Did he have eyeballs? Was it more like cataracts? I always wonder these things, but it’s not important.
He was a grown man, not a little boy, which makes me think he was at least eighteen years old. Eighteen years without seeing the love in his mother’s eyes. Eighteen years without watching a sunset. Eighteen years without studying Torah.
Eighteen years of thinking he bore the guilt of his parents’ sin.
In a single moment, Jesus swept away all that guilt. Jesus tells him and everyone else why. It’s the why in all of our hearts when something tragic happens…when we, though faithful, receive that crushing diagnosis…when our world crashes around our feet. This is the answer to that pervasive question, “Why me, Jesus?” Don’t miss it!
This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. –John 9:3
It happened for God’s glory.
Likewise, my problems happen for God’s glory.
I’m sure this man’s experiences over the years produced incredible perseverance and maturity in him. I’m also sure he was thrilled to be healed and probably celebrated for days. But all these things are self-centered. They focus on him and what happened in his life.
Paul understood this concept. He had more reason to boast or call attention to himself than any other believer on the planet (2 Corinthians 12:6, Philippians 3:4-6). Yet there was this one thing, this thorn in the flesh, that God wouldn’t take away (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). He had a problem, and he eventually understood that God was using it for His own glory, which is why God wouldn’t remove it. For this reason, Paul got to where he actually delighted in that problem (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He considered it “pure joy.”
When we go through problems, it’s really easy to fold inward and concentrate on how it affects us. While it’s okay to be encouraged by knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, etc. (James 1:3), our best perspective on a problem is to look for how God can be glorified through it. James knew it; Paul knew it, and this unnamed, formerly-blind guy learned it along with the disciples.
All this time, we’ve been asking God the wrong question when we cry out to Him from the throes of our problems. We ask why: “Why is this happening to me?” But He’s already answered that. The better question—the one He’s sure to answer if we watch for it—is how: “How can You get the most glory from this?” It takes a change of perspective, a focus on Him rather than ourselves.
Oh, I like this phrase: bind our joy to His glory! You can tweet that last sentence, if you want to share this post.
What’s your reaction here? How does this make you think…or rethink…about a problem in your life? How have you seen this perspective (of God’s glory) prove true in the past?