Is a punishment from God a gift? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Tolkien lived a rough life I understand. I heard a video yesterday my wife played talking about it and how someone wrote Tolkien about how he viewed death. Tolkien responded with “What punishments of God are not gifts?” Now, this is not to say that every time a death occurs, it is a direct punishment from God, or any suffering for that matter, but it is a good perspective on it.
If we are Christians who believe that everything passes through God’s hand and that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, then every trial and temptation that comes our way is a gift to help shape us into Christlikeness. Perhaps someone might say, “I don’t see how God can use this.” That does not mean that he cannot. This is the true biblical definition of faith. It is trust in the sovereign Lord even when one does not know what He is doing because of who He is.
It doesn’t mean one enjoys the time of suffering. We normally do not. Few of us wake up and embrace suffering in the morning and give thanks for it. We are not good at doing what James says at counting it joy when trials come upon us at all times.
But that is what we are told to do.
I am a part of Celebrate Recovery here. Let’s suppose that I have a man I talk to who is addicted to porn. Is it good that he is? No. Can it be used for good? Absolutely. God has allowed him to see a weakness in his character that can be removed so that he can be more like Jesus. Through his current real lack of love for women, he can grow into a deep love for them and perhaps his own current or future wife. (Yes. Pornography is a lack of love of women. It is simply treating them as bodies.)
Not all suffering comes through moral failings on our part. I think I remember Tolkien’s parents dying at a young age and him being raised by a priest. We are not people who hold to the “Law of Attraction” that says what happens to you is what you attract. Sometimes it can be. Lie down with dogs and you can get fleas. Make foolish and prideful decisions and you can expect consequences.
Still, even with that suffering, one can grow into a deeper trust in Christ in those times. If we refuse to accept these times as good, then we are doing what Job said not to do. We are saying we want to accept good things when they come from God, but if it’s anything we don’t like, we don’t want to accept it. Isn’t it quite incredible that when God gives us goods that we don’t deserve, even as simple as rain and sunshine, we don’t complain, but when God allows any kind of suffering in our lives, and we all deserve that biblically, then we start to complain?
Hebrews also tells us that if we are disciplined, then that means we are sons. What this tells us is that if suffering isn’t part of our lives, we might be doing something wrong. God disciplines all of His sons and daughters. Our refusal to accept it only makes it harder. Imagine if the stone moved every time the sculptor came with the chisel and resisted it. The work would either not get done or come out horribly.
If something comes into our lives, it is something God can use for our good. Our problem is we don’t turn to Him when that happens. Instead, we often get angry with Him and act like He is in the wrong. I am not saying that all such anger is wrong. It happens. The Psalms are full of it. The good for them is that the Psalmist still trusts God with His anger. Be honest with your emotions with God, but trust Him anyway.
Again, as Job says, we ought to accept trouble from God and not just good. It does not mean that God is against us or He doesn’t love us. Maybe it’s just, and I know this is a bizarre thought but I will share it anyway, maybe an omniscient being actually knows some things that we don’t know. Maybe we should be humble and ask for the faith to submit to God in trust when things are rough knowing more of who He is. If we struggle there, maybe we need to change our theology.
Whatever happens to you today, if you love the Lord, it will be used for your good. How can you lose?