We have heard the emotionally intense language of frantic frustration and hopelessness. “My life is unraveling at the seams.” “I am being crushed.” “It feels like my life is in a ruthless meat grinder!” More often than not, the next words will be predictable, if not also a bit cliche. “Why? Why is this happening to me?”
If we were to peer within a basket filled with possible answers, we discover many plausible reasons why waves of hardship might break upon our lives. To be sure, it seems that sometimes we can accurately know why, but is it not true that more often than not the true reason seems elusive? Should we conclude that forces of evil have conspired to destroy faith or are we somehow reaping what we have sown? Is God disciplining us in order that our faith might be stronger or is this simply a case of being in “the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Sitting around an ash pile, Job and his friends argued about why crisis after crisis had descended upon Job. Ironically, although several of them were confident they had the right answer, none of their assertions were even close. Perhaps even more surprising is that when God later spoke with Job, he never told him why! Yet, the book of Job reveals that God felt compelled to address other matters with Job. Should not this cause us to ask whether we are focusing upon the right question?
In fact, other than satisfying our curiosity, to know why is not particularly helpful in guiding our course of action. If evil has been attacking, how should we respond? Draw closer to God. If God has been disciplining, how should we respond? Draw closer to God. If we have been reaping the wild oats which were sown, how should we respond? Draw closer to God. Is there any situation where the right response would be to pursue something other than drawing nearer to God?
Paralysis engulfs many lives as an enormous amount of energy is consumed by asking why. The significant questions revolve around “how.” How will I view this hardship? How am I going to respond to this problem?
Regardless of the reason, there is benefit in viewing hardship as an opportunity to grow. “Endure hardship as discipline” the Hebrew author tells us./1 Although discipline might conjure up images of punishment, we can probably get closer to what he meant by thinking of the rigors of training and development. As they say in the gym, “no pain no gain.” James reminds us that it is through adversity and trials, that our spiritual character has an opportunity to mature./2
When crises and hardships crash down upon our lives, the question to ask is not “why did this happen to me,” but rather, “how am I going to respond?”
1 Hebrews 12:7
2 James 1:2-4