“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” [James 1:2-4]
Every difficulty is an opportunity to choose life or death. You need to always remember that God doesn’t punish sin by making life hard, He punishes sin by ending life (Romans 6:23). The wages of sin is death. Not a spanking, not an arrest, not a fine… death! However, if you’re a Christian, your sin is already punished in the death of Christ. Therefore, in suffering, it is pivotal to understand that God is not getting back at you; He is getting you back to Himself. Hard times are not punishment of sin, even though they are a CONSEQUENCE of sin.
It is essential to understand the difference between punishment and consequence. Look at it this way. When your father tells you not to play in the street, he knows that you will get hit by a car if you do. However, if you go out and play in the street anyway, you have disobeyed your parent. That is sinning. For that, God says, you deserve nothing short of a hangman’s noose. However, if you go play in the street and get hit by a car, that’s not God punishing your sin, that’s a direct consequence of playing in the street. Do you see the difference?
It means that even the person who has not been warned against playing in the street will still face the same consequence… This also explains why the law had to be given through Moses. The law did not make sin bad, the law was meant to show us the badness of sin. The law open our eyes to God’s perspective. The law simply says, “Thou shalt not play in the street.” This means that whether or not the law is there, playing in the street would still result in physical consequences.
The above difference between punishment and consequence is essential in helping us understand why difficulties exist. Think about your hardships. What really is your struggle in those hard moments? Is your struggle against your external circumstances or is your struggle against reacting sinfully to those circumstances? When you lose all your money, is your struggle against poverty or is your struggle against the fact that you cannot just steal to survive? When you are hungry and have nothing to eat, is your struggle against walking into a restaurant and order some food or is your struggle against the fact that it is wrong to order food at a restaurant without any money?
The disciples in the storm, was their struggle against the towering waves or was it against the fear of death? It’s a thin line and most of us tend to miss it in our unique circumstances. But that’s what difficult circumstances do. Some people would want to draw strict lines between trials and temptations (and the Bible rightly distinguishes them in James 1), but oftentimes, trials are temptations in disguise, because the choice is between reacting in righteousness and reacting sinfully.
When Jesus died for your sins, he freed you from the curse of sin. His death redeemed you from the POWER of sin, but not the PRESENCE of sin. Therefore, in a believer’s life, God will only use the consequences of your sinful actions for good (Rom 8:28). What God does in your difficult moments is that He redeems your circumstances. He re-purposes the curse.
Difficulties are disciplining moments. They are not condemning moments. It is upon the anvil of adversity that true disciples are forged. Difficulties are divine opportunities to see God’s Grace at work. If God is for us, no one and nothing can be against us. If God is for us, we ought to regard every opposition is an opportunity, every stumbling block is a stepping stone, and every pain is a plan: A plan to redeem you; an opportunity to teach you; a stepping stone to righteousness. God is indeed for us, not against us. If you are in Christ, you have no reason to be pessimistic about anything.
The truly redeemed Christian is a care free Christian. Behind every trial is a triumph. Behind every difficulty is a discipline. However, the Bible reminds us that behind every moment that causes us to be anxious, is a roaring lion seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:7-8)
It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it is blasphemous for a Christian to be a pessimist.
“As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”” [Romans 8:36-37]