Does God put us in difficult situations to test us?


Table of Contents for: Does God put us in difficult situations to test us?

A gale and heavy seas

Many years ago I was kayaking (canoeing), 5 miles out from Clacton in the North Sea.
A gale was blowing, and the sea was wild and it was one of those really difficult situations.
All the waves had ‘white horses’ on them and that made my slalom canoe terribly difficult to control and keep upright.

We had decided to keep together as a pack of canoes, then, if one of us got into trouble the others could help.

A Kayak in heavy seas. Does God put us in difficult situations to test us?
A Kayak in heavy seas. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

But one person decided to go on ahead of us and slightly off to one side.
He reckoned he would be alright on his own and very quickly we lost sight of him in the huge waves.

I couldn’t look round much because all of my attention was taken up in combating the violent wind and waves.
After a while we saw a small lifeboat coming from the shore.
It came to the left side of us and picked up the canoeist from our group who had gone on ahead of us!

We later found out that he had fallen out of his canoe and we had paddled right past him, totally unaware of him being there!
The huge waves and spray had prevented us from seeing him, but the coastguard had been watching us from the shore and they had seen the danger.

When we got back to the shore, there he was wrapped up in a blanket, shaking violently from the cold and a little disturbed from his mishap!
We were experienced canoeists, but that chap had got too much self confidence and he had put himself in a situation which was too difficult for him to cope with.

Jesus led his disciples into a terrifying situation

Would Jesus allow the disciples to go into difficult situations?

Let’s now look at a time when Jesus got into a boat with his disciples.
God knew what was going to happen and he allowed that difficult situation to unfold, even though he knew was going to be extremely tough for them.

You can read the story here:

That day when evening came Jesus said to His disciples;
‘Let us go over to the other side.’
Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.
There were also other boats with Him.
A furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion.
The disciples woke Him and said to Him;
‘Teacher! Don’t You care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves; ‘Quiet! Be still!’
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to His disciples;
‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
They were terrified and asked each other;
‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’ “

Mark 4:35-41
A little fishing boat on Lake Galilee. Does God put us in difficult situations to test us?
A little fishing boat on Lake Galilee.

Jesus putting them in that situation was a bit like the leader of our canoeing group saying to me in that gale on the North Sea; ‘I want you to go on ahead of us, so that we can’t see you!’

Why would Jesus Christ, the Son of God, want to do that?
He wanted to test them, to see whether they trusted Him, or not.
That was no trivial storm.
Those fishermen were accustomed to dangerous seas and yet they were petrified!

So this was a really difficult test, in an extremely tough situation.
How did the disciples cope with their test?

  • They were terrified
  • The situation was beyond them
  • They thought they trusted Him.
  • They were certainly following Him, but when the crunch came where was their trust?

Life can be unpredictable and there will be difficult situations

When everything is going well, there is no problem is there?

But suddenly a bad illness hits us, or someone loses their job, and the money becomes very short, which causes arguments, shouting, and bad feelings…

We may attend a church and think that we trust the Lord.
But God may test us.
The problem suddenly pushes us beyond our level of skill, or patience, and we feel very alone and exposed.
Do we put our trust in our own strength?
Or do we hear the voice of Jesus saying: ‘Trust Me. I am God. I see all things, I know all things. I am all powerful and nothing is too hard for Me. Trust Me.’

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.”

James 1:2

Matthew Henry in his Bible Commentary says of this verse in James:

1. It is implied that troubles and afflictions may be the lot of the best Christians, even of those who have the most reason to think and hope well of themselves.
Such as have a title to the greatest joy may yet endure very grievous afflictions.
As good people are liable to be scattered, they must not think it strange if they meet with troubles.
2. These outward afflictions and troubles are temptations to them.
The devil endeavours by sufferings and crosses to draw men to sin and to deter them from duty, or unfit them for it;
But, as our afflictions are in God’s hand, they are intended for the trial and improvement of our graces.
The gold is put into the furnace, that it may be purified.
3. These temptations may be numerous and various:
Divers temptations, as the apostle speaks.
Our trials may be of many and different kinds, and therefore we have need to put on the whole armour of God.
We must be armed on every side, because temptations lie on all sides.
4. The trials of a good man are such as he does not create to himself, nor sinfully pull upon himself;
But they are such as he is said to fall into.
And for this reason they are the better borne by him.”

‘Commentary on the Whole Bible’ (1721) by Matthew Henry [i]

Jesus’ miracles were SIGNS

When He calmed the storm, what do you think the sign for that miracle was saying?

  • Jesus has power over nature.
  • Jesus is the One who created the world, so it is an easy thing for Him to calm this storm!
  • Learn from the things Jesus said

It is easy to be tempted that this is a made-up story.
But it is true, it happened.

References:
[i] ‘Commentary on the Whole Bible’ (1721) by Matthew Henry
Sailing boat image: thanks to ‘The Pictorial Dictionary’
published by The Educational Book Company, London


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