Isaiah 29:1–30:17, Luke 10:1–42, Job 7:1–10
When something bad happens, the first question is usually, “why?” The Bible gives many examples that help me discern the answer.
One: God is chastening His people because of hypocrisy and disobedience. Isaiah gives the reason first, then describes some of what they were doing, as well as His response to them.
He says, “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:13–14)
This kind of disobedience often ignores the omniscience of God or tries to hide from Him saying, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” (Isaiah 29:15)
“'Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!’” (Isaiah 30:1–2)
God also says of them, “For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’” (Isaiah 30:9–11)
But God has a plan. After the chastening, His rebellious people will be changed. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:18–19)
Not only that, they will “no more be ashamed” (Isaiah 29:22) and they “will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction.” (Isaiah 29:23–24)
Those who tried to flee God by embracing the world (represented by Egypt) will find their choice of protection to be a shame and humiliation because those “people that cannot profit them . . . .” (Isaiah 30:3–5) and “Egypt’s help is worthless and empty.” (Isaiah 30:6–7)
This will happen suddenly to those who “despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness” (Isaiah 30:12–13) even though God calls them saying, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” They are not willing, fleeing as fast as they can, but the “pursuers shall be swift” and eventually God’s plan for them will be fulfilled. In this case, suffering happens as a means of correction.
Two: God is testing the faith of His people, not because of disobedience, but to prove that what He does in their lives cannot be overthrown by severe tests. Job is the best example. He also reveals that when tested, God’s people might not understand what is happening to them. He speaks of, “months of emptiness . . . nights of misery . . . full of tossing till the dawn . . . flesh clothed with worms and dirt . . . skin hardens . . . breaks out afresh.” He feels hopeless saying, “My life is a breath; my eye will never again see good . . .” and of going to the grave and never going back to his house. (Job 7:3–10) Nevertheless, this is not the end of his story. God eventually restores all and Job does survive this severe test of suffering.
Three: Suffering sometimes happens because godly people are despised. Jesus told His disciples, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves . . . .” (Luke 10:3–4) He told them they would be rejected and they often were. (Luke 10:10–11) God’s people suffer persecution.
Four: Sometimes we suffer because we take on hard work rather than listen to the Lord. Not only does the work stress us, but the Lord Jesus will rebuke those who make that choice. Consider Martha who was “distracted with much serving.” She went to Jesus with this audacious request, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Jesus may have smiled to soften the blow of His words, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40–42) Martha suffered because she didn’t seek the Lord’s will before trying to serve Him.
There may be other reasons why God sends stress and hardship into our lives, but these cover a few of them and give me a check list for the next time my roof caves in.