Most would agree this year has been hard on many levels. Added to the normal daily stressors have been an array of life-changing events – global pandemic, economic shut down, and current social unrest. While the Christian worldview broadly understands everything fits perfectly into God’s complete plan (Ephesians 1:11), the question is often asked, “What is God teaching us?” To answer this question, a few biblical affirmations need to be made.
First, Christians must recognize God uses hardships and difficulties to teach his people. Just look at the biblical accounts of men like Joseph, Stephen, or Job. God repeatedly used devasting events as part of his incomprehensible plan. Because of this truth, Paul claims believers ought to “exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). Hardships are often the vehicle God uses to teach believers valuable lessons that otherwise wouldn’t be learned. Though difficult to fully grasp, Christians must affirm with A.W. Tozer, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”
The second consideration for discerning God’s teaching is believing God uses all things in the process of sanctification. God’s highest purpose for every Christian is to grow us further into the perfect image of Christ. In the Christian journey, this practically means biblical obedience in times of difficulties. As James famously encourages, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Easier said than done, the old hymn simply beckons us to “trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” As a Christian, God is using everything in this life to make you more like Christ.
The final consideration is believing God brings about all things for our ultimate good. Paul victoriously concludes, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul’s optimism in the face of suffering rests on two necessary conditions – goodness is promised only to Christians, and goodness is defined as “becoming conformed to the image of his Son.” (8:29) Only those renewed in Christ are promised God’s goodness. This promised goodness doesn’t result in mere health or wealth but in the infinitely more valuable transformation into Christ’s likeness. Christian, your greatest hope is for God to use every situation for your good in Christ Jesus.
With these considerations in mind, hopefully the answer to our initial question becomes clearer. The answer is quite simple – Christ alone can fully satisfy the longings of our hearts. The Psalmist rejoices over this truth claiming, “In Your [the Lord’s] presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). Chasing worldly causes, growing numb through endless entertainment, and seeking fulfillment in earthly pursuits leave even the best of us dissatisfied and empty. God created and saved you to be in a right relationship with Him. Therefore, only Christ can satisfy and fulfill the deepest yearning of your soul. The great theologian, Herman Bavinck, astutely noted, “God, and God alone, is man’s highest good…[and] is the abundant fountain of all goods.”
What is God teaching us? He’s teaching us that He’s enough. Even in times of great difficulty, those who trust in Christ are never disappointed and will eternally be satisfied in Him. For the children of God, rest in your Savior’s promise that true, eternal fulfilment is found only in Christ – “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.’” (John 6:35)