I don’t completely understand why problems come. I’m a Christian, and definitely one that believes in “sanctified suffering”, but perspective is a powerful filter. In some ways I think perspective, my perspective, is a dangerous thing. I am liable, and even apt, to allow my immediate circumstances to draw and define the lines of life and color them in with the shades of my stress and discomfort.
Oswald Chambers said this:
Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace.
I appreciate this statement first of all because it sounds like something that a leathery, crusty, tough-as-nails general would say to his troops before leading them into harm’s way. It inspires me. It moves me. For a moment it makes me feel stronger than I really am. Like Mr Myagi makes Daniel feel. He says, “you muss focus, daniel-san…you best karate still inside” and suddenly years of training aren’t needed, just the subtly profound words of a wise old sage.
My biggest problem with that is the reality of life. If that plays out in life, then Daniel gets his butt whipped all over the All-Valley Tournament Arena by Cobra Kai and everyone else who’s had more than a 15 minute musical montage to train. I read those words and have no idea what it means to be heroic in moments of suffering. I hear amazing things and realize that I am nowhere close to the men I read about.
It is in these moments of doubt that the last part of Chambers’ quote speaks to me: “there are some things only learned in a fiery furnace”. Learned. Learning isn’t an immediate action. Ask any kindergarten teacher and they’ll give you two hours with stories, illustrations, and visual aids on the subject.
I heard John Piper say once that problems, tests, and suffering are Satan’s greatest tools for trying to eliminate faith in our life and God’s greatest tool for building faith in our life. So the question is not, will I suffer, but, will I turn inward and futily try to prove myself sovereign, or will I turn upward and beautifully find that God is sovereign and good…even (and maybe most profoundly) in the midst of trials?
It’s hard to find perspective in the middle of things, just like its hard to get your bearings when you’re floating adrift in the ocean. So maybe the answer isn’t to first find perspective, but to first find God. Perspective and understanding are notorious for being hindsight issues. Because WHAT Joseph said, “what you meant for evil God meant for good”, was directly related to WHEN Joseph said it (Genesis 50:20)