For many years, one of the most encouraging portions of Scripture for me has been 2 Chronicles 16:9. In the NIV this reads:
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
This verse and many others speak to the fact that God will never abandon those who genuinely trust in him. And yet, it’s also true that we don’t always see or sense this strengthening support. Like everyone else, Christ followers face trials, temptations, and endure suffering. In fact, since the enemies of God focus their most intense efforts against Christ followers, we often suffer more than others. How do we reconcile the fact that God never abandons us, and yet we suffer?
Notice that the verse promises that God will strengthen us. It does not say that he will make everything easy. In fact, it’s during the most difficult times of life that we learn to trust God the most.
I generally read two chapters of the Bible a day, one in the Old Testament, and one in the New Testament. This week my Old Testament reading included Genesis chapters 37-41. This portion of Scripture highlights the account of how Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, was imprisoned for something he didn’t do, and was forgotten by someone he helped. This process involved years of intense suffering before God orchestrated Joseph’s release from prison and his eventual rise to a position of incredible power in Egypt.
During his years of suffering it might have seemed to Joseph like God had abandoned him. And yet, we see signs throughout the account that God was at work behind the scenes. Much later, while looking back over his life, Joseph said the following to his brothers as recorded in Genesis 50:20 (ESV):
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
I mentioned above that I also generally read a chapter of the New Testament each morning. Part of my reading this week included Romans chapters 5-9. Chapters 6-8 offer amazing insight into the suffering Christ followers endure as they struggle to overcome weakness and sin in their efforts to live for God. Toward the end of the description of this struggle, or warfare, we are told in Romans 8:28 (ESV) that:
In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
A key portion of this verse are the words “in all things God works.” In other words, even as Joseph was suffering in prison, and even as Christ followers today suffer as we seek to live for God in a fallen world and as we fight the pull of our fallen nature, God is at work behind the scenes. More than that, God is at work for our good.
Yes, even when we suffer, even when it seems like we might be abandoned, God’s eyes are on us. God is working in unseen ways to strengthen us. He’s allowing us to go through things that in the end will enable us to trust him more, and to love him more.
No matter what you or I may be suffering today, there will come a time when we understand why. It may be some time from now, or it may be after we leave this earth and see God face-to-face. But at some point we, like Joseph, will look back and see that what our enemies meant for evil, God used for our good.
These words of encouragement are not hollow. They are not based on self-help principles developed by man. These words of encouragement are promises made to Christ followers by God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and all that is within them. These are promises from the God who formed you in your mother’s womb and who knows every last detail of our lives.
I don’t know about you, but these promises fill me with joy and hope. I choose to believe them. I choose to trust in God and to take him at his word. I choose to do so in the good times, and I’ve chosen to do so in times of suffering. May God grant that you and I will always trust Him, and may we see and sense his strengthening even in the darkest moments of this life.
Thank you, Lord, that though we may not see it, you always work for the good of those who genuinely love and trust you. Amen!