We all have our troubles, don’t we? It doesn’t matter whether we are young or old, male or female, rich or poor, saint or sinner. Troubles and trials are a way of life with us as long as we are in this world. Some of us think life shouldn’t be this way. “God, make me happy! Take away all my pain, my troubles, my sorrows!” And when he doesn’t we cry out “Why me, Lord?” This is one of those perpetual, disturbing questions that plague our existence. It is not that there is no answer to the question. Its just that it is difficult for us to face the answer.
The first thing I would suggest is that we must realize that we will have problems and simply need to get used to it. Instead of an “Oh, woe is me” attitude, James tells us how to think when we face troubles.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3).
The attitude that says that I should not have to face trouble is really egotistical and self-centered. We are so sure that we are so important, so good, so righteous that we shouldn’t have to go through difficulties. With this attitude we often blame God for not preventing our pain. “Why me, Lord?” “Lord, don’t you love me any more?”
According to James, God uses trials of various kinds to test our faith in him. Do we really trust him? Then wait. Wait with patience for the good that he designs to bring to us through the suffering. He is developing patience, a much needed quality of character. He is developing strength in us that will enable us to meet even greater trials.
Often we blame “this old sinful world” for our problems. While it is true that the troubles that come to us are on account of the principle of sin, it is also true that sometimes we have troubles because of the evil doings of others. But all too often the things that confront us are of our own doing. The way we look at others with haughty disdain and censure because they don’t measure up to our expectations often brings us problems in our families, in the workplace and in the church. The stupid mistakes we make which bring undesirable consequences. The wrong choices we make in life that lead us into situations we don’t want to be in.
In such cases the troubles we are enduring may be disciplinary in nature. Consider the advice of the apostle Paul concerning those in Thessalonica who had chosen to be idle. He said, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). In other words, let him suffer the consequences of his choice. Why should God or why should other people ease the pain of hunger of one who will not turn his hand to earn his livelihood?
No, James is not saying that we should jump up and down with elation when we are tried. He is talking about how we react to troubles. Its our is our choice, whether we will pity ourselves or whether we will trust the Lord. No Christian ever went through more troubles than Paul. Yet we never read of him complaining and bemoaning the fact that God had not prevented all his troubles. As a prisoner of the Roman Empire and having to depend on the financial support of Christians from far away whose support did not always arrive in a timely manner, he said …
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:12-13).
And still as a prisoner, possibly knowing the date of his execution, he wrote to Timothy …
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tim. 4:18).
Why could Paul look at his situation the way he did? Was it not because that he, through his faith in God, had made a commitment to trust his very being to him? He would always put the Lord first. When we moan and complain about how unfairly we are being treated, when we cry out to God “Why me, Lord?” are we not focusing on ourselves? We have become the center of our world instead of putting God at the center.
Remember what our Savior did for us. He was scorned and rejected by the very people who should have welcomed him. He was tempted by the devil. He was reviled as a blasphemer, accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. People tried to trick him so as to trap him in his words. He was taken prisoner, scourged, mocked, spat upon, nailed to a cross until he died. He did it all to identify with us – to save us – to bring us to him. The prophet Isaiah foretold of his response to all he went through …
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
When we have troubles, instead of raising a “Why me, Lord?” lament, should we not rather exclaim, “Why not me, Lord?” Again consider the words of the apostle Paul …
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11).