This Question is a Thorn In My Side

“We all have our crosses to bear.” This phrase is so well worn, I wonder sometimes if people really stop to think about what it means. Basically, there are some things that God removes from us, some things He requires us to persevere through, and some things He makes us struggle against always. Paul had a cross, a “thorn in his side”. He asked God repeatedly to take it away and finally accepted it as his “cross to bear” to keep him humble. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Galatians 4:13-14)

Recently I was talking to two women with addictions. One is a recovering alcoholic; one has an eating disorder. The alcoholic was delivered from her addiction seemingly overnight. She knows she’s an alcoholic and can never, ever, under any circumstances drink, but she’s blessed enough that she doesn’t “white knuckle” every day like so many alcoholics and drug addicts who count down the days ad infinitum. The woman who has the eating disorder is not so fortunate; she does have to white knuckle every hour of every day. The question came up, “Why doesn’t God deliver you like He delivered me?!”

Why, indeed?!

Why did God deliver Paul from prison and allow Stephen to be beheaded? Did he love Paul more? Why did God allow John to die of old age and Peter to be crucified? Was He holding a grudge over Peter’s denial of Yeshua? Why did God close the mouths of the lions with Daniel, but allow thousands of other Christians to become kitten chow?

How would you feel if you were the wife or child of any of these “less fortunate” followers of the Master? Would you look at the wife or daughter of someone who was miraculously delivered and wonder why God favored that family over you and yours?

It is an age old question to wonder, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In fact, this is the title of the bestselling book by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. Several years ago I heard a sermon by Dr. Charles Stanley on this very subject that I think is right on the money. Dr. Stanley said, very simply, that God’s call on your life is not the same as His call on my life. Period.

While that might not be a very satisfying answer, when you think about it, it really is the only answer. God gives each one of us different gifts, calls, and talents. He allows different experiences, trials, opportunities and tests to propel us on the path for which He has designed us. Add to that free will and all the detours our choices add to complicate our paths.

Each of us is a unique creation. God uses one person to accomplish His purpose over here and another person to accomplish His purpose over there. He allows certain things into each of our lives, for a short time, for a long time or forever to teach and grow us, to keep us in check or propel us along. My friend who is the alcoholic has recently been given another cross to bear. I told her, “Maybe God delivered you from alcoholism many years ago because He knew you couldn’t handle alcoholism and this new issue, too.” Whereas, I’m sure God has a reason for allowing my other friend to struggle with an eating disorder every day. Maybe to teach her to rely on His strength and not her own?  Maybe to teach her that only He can true provide comfort?  Maybe to show her that the only way to control her life is to give up control over everything in her life, including food, to Him? The point is that God gives us different positives and negatives, different paths, different trials, different everything.

Job had to endure incredible hardships because God intended for him to be an example throughout the ages. Job also was extraordinarily blessed, both before and after his trials and tribulations. When you think about it, all the Biblical “greats” had to endure much suffering, while they received extraordinary rewards. For every Biblical example — Abraham, Noah, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, John — there were thousands of others who had lessening degrees of “peaks” and “valleys”.  They didn’t endure a lot in the way of trials, but also didn’t receive a lot in the way of blessings, comparatively speaking to the Biblical greats. Just as in our lives, some of us have good health, while others are blessed with good finances. Some of us have occasional trials and some of us seem cursed. Why?! I don’t know, specifically, but this is where we need to trust that God knows what He’s doing with your life and He knows what He’s doing with my life. His call on my life is unique and so are the crosses He calls me to bear. Each one serves a purpose in His plan. We need to take care not to get jealous when God doesn’t deliver me as He does you, or when He doesn’t bless me the same way He blesses you. Plus, we need to remember that much is required of the one to whom much is given.

BOOK GIVEAWAY REMINDER:  I have two copies of My Mother’s Wish, An American Christmas Carol by Jerry Gamery-Hoggatt, to give away (see Monday’s review of the book).  Just send your name and mailing address to seewhykinsman@yahoo.com to register for My Mother’s Wish.  TWO winners will be drawn at random this Friday, November 21st.  Good luck!

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