The Proving Ground
Technology has now made it possible for us to witness any event happening anywhere on the planet in real time. It’s gut wrenching to see bad things happen to good people. War, tragic accidents, illness, crime, corruption, and a myriad of other events that plague this world can cause us to question, “Why is God allowing this?” Even as I write this post the world has just surpassed the one million mark in Covid 19 deaths. It’s perfectly normal to have questions, just be on guard against the devil who will try and persuade you to believe his answers. Welcome to The Proving Ground.
In the seven years I spent at Defence Research & Development Canada in Suffield, Alberta, I worked almost exclusively in an area called the Experimental Proving Ground. This is where new products and ideas in troop protection are tested and improved upon before being put into service. The tests were called “trials” and lives literally depend on these things doing what they were designed to do. Planet earth is indeed one big proving ground where we all endure trials and tribulations in the hope of improving ourselves. God doesn’t test us to find out what we’re capable of, where we will succeed or fail, He already knows. These things happen so that we can see where improvement is needed in our own lives. Hopefully we learn in times of trial and make the appropriate changes, hopefully we grow.
So if God loved us enough to die for us then why all the trials and tribulations of life? If He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper and not to harm… (Jeremiah 29:11) then why do we experience pain and suffering? Well, first of all, the way things are now isn’t the way God originally made them to be. When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God cursed the earth and sent them out of the Garden of Eden. He didn’t stop loving and caring for them or the rest of us. To this day we live in a fallen world, but we are not without hope, we are not alone. Knowledge of the curse has not brought me comfort when everything is falling apart. Knowing what God’s Word says and believing the promises Jesus has made is where I find great comfort, strength and hope.
Our biblical picture of God affects the way we live our lives and how we treat the people who share it. It’s important to have an accurate view of Who God is and how He deals with sin. We read that He is loving, forgiving, kind and merciful and also that He is holy, righteous and just. This can sometimes lead to confusion between grace and judgment. We are comforted by His Word and at the same time fearful of it. Some Christians pride themselves on being tolerant and accepting of everyone, despite a lifestyle that reflects a total disregard for God’s law. Other more rigid Christians place a heavy emphasis on God’s judgment. Neither reveals the whole picture. We must be careful not to get so caught up in the good stuff that we lose sight of the warnings. Everyone should have a healthy, reverent fear of the Lord and yet, through Him, “…draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.
Be cautious of the prosperity preachers that say you can have everything your heart desires if you just come to Jesus. The “name it and claim it” crowd that would have you believe that life is a bed of roses if Jesus is your saviour; not true. In many cases life can get harder once you belong to Christ. You are now going against the flow and the devil may take a more active interest in you. Satan is diametrically opposed to God, so when you give your life to Christ, he loses you and that makes him angry. This is nothing to be worried about. I love what 1 John 4:4 says, “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Jesus has already won the battle and the devil is thrashing around in death throes wanting to take as many down with him as he can. Jesus tells us in John 10:28 that we are perfectly safe in His hands. He has our backs.
Many soldiers have died needlessly because they were thrust into battle before receiving the proper combat training. For anyone to be effective at what they do, they must be trained. If you’re involved in an accident you take comfort knowing that the paramedics rushing to your aid are highly trained, right? The pilot who flies the plane you’re on, the police or firefighters you call, the surgeon who is about to hold your heart in their hands; all have proven that they know what they’re doing. Spiritual warfare rages all around us and God takes an active roll in making sure we are prepared for battle. Tangible weapons of war are useless in the spiritual battle against Satan and his demons. In Ephesians 6:11-18 , Paul tells us about the full armour of God. Three times, in verses 11, 13 and 14 we are told to “stand firm.” If we faithfully follow these instructions we are guaranteed victory over any scheme of the devil. I have put a link in the resource section of this post that describes the armour of God in detail. I do think it’s interesting that the first piece of armour is truth. Being truthful at all times is not only important to our relationship with God, but also for those to whom we witness. Lying and deception is detestable to God and destroys relationships.
One thing I hear a lot lately is, “Everything happens for a reason.” While it is true that God is sovereign and that every event has a reason behind it, there is no scripture that spells it out exactly that way. Sometimes we say that “everything happens for a reason” to make ourselves feel better after making bad choices. There are many examples of Romans 8:28 throughout the entire Bible and this seems to be where this popular saying comes from. We may tell someone that “everything happens for a reason” to get them to examine their actions in the hope that they will learn from their mistakes. We may even say it as a means of comfort, but there is a right time and a wrong time to say it. For example, a funeral is not the place to suggest there is a reason. Paul writes in Romans 12:15 “…weep with those who weep.” I had an experience that drove this point home. I was telling a friend about the idea I had for our home page header on this blog that would illustrate my family situation. As she listened, tears formed in her eyes, she didn’t say anything at all. I was deeply moved and comforted by her silence and her sincere sympathy for my personal tragedy. It is perfectly normal to feel like we have to say something in order to bring comfort to hurting people, but sometimes silence speaks much louder than words.
It has been my experience that much of the suffering I have endured during my lifetime has been due to my own mistakes and poor choices. I definitely don’t blame God for them. In fact, I credit Him greatly for seeing me through those difficult times. Even when suffering arrives at my door through no fault of my own, I clearly see God’s hand at work. During the hardest of times I run to Him, cry out to Him, seek Him and find comfort, help and safety. My faith and trust in Him has grown stronger with each passing storm, and they do pass. Testing, trials and tribulations are for our benefit. James 1:2-4. The last thing I feel when I’m in the middle of a storm is joy. And yet, when I force myself to refocus and look upward instead of outward at what lies ahead, that is when help arrives. Yelling, swearing and throwing a fit has never helped solve anything in my life. It has only served to aggravate the situation and raise the anxiety level of those around me. Taking the time to ask for God’s help taps you into the awesome power of the creator and will yield results if we are patient. Most of the time we don’t see what God is doing, when He’s doing it. He loves to surprise His children.
When others see our patient perseverance in the midst of a storm, God is glorified. When people in our lives witness us “bearing up” under fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12) they want that same confidence, they want to tap into that same power. This is a large part of what draws people to Christ. Weathering the storms of life not only develops our character and helps us to be more like Christ, but also greatly increases our faith. Tribulations are to faith as water and nutrients are to a tree. Without them there is no growth.
God may bring about trying times in an effort to draw our attention to sinful behaviour. We tend to continue acting in whatever way works best for us or that brings about the desired results, even if it’s clearly not what God wants. If yelling and physical abuse or lying and manipulation has proven effective in controlling the people who share life with you, then you may find yourself rationalizing and justifying the behaviour. Unless there are consequences, you may continue to employ these sinful tactics.
God isn’t so much interested in our comfort as He is our growth.
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Image – Pixabay
gotquestions.org – What Is The Full Armour Of God?