At the risk of sounding incredibly insensitive, I’m a little wary of Christians who always believe God has arranged the trying circumstances of their life. In the words of the Scriptures, they think they are undergoing a “trial.” They are perpetually in the midst of some “test of their faith” because our Heavenly Father has seen fit to make their life very difficult at the moment….again.
I’m a tad bit suspicious that what most Christians identify as the difficult “trials God has them going through” is really just the backwash of their own irresponsible behavior.
Is it just me or do many of these people seem to be in a perpetual state of personal or spiritual crisis? It’s like they’re constantly going from one trial to the next in their lives. The warm weeks of joy are unusually brief before the onset of another bitter winter and some new “time of testing.” Curiously, “trials” seem to follow these people, or arrive just ahead of them, everywhere they go.
It seems it was just a few weeks ago they were lamenting the last crisis God had brought upon them for unknown reasons.
- They’re sick…again.
- They’re unemployed…again.
- They’re estranged…again.
- They’re having a hard time making ends meet…again.
- They’re not sure what God is up to in their lives…again.
- They’re not sure what they should do next…again.
- God has them in “a holding pattern” (whatever that means?)…again.
- Their prayers aren’t being answered…again.
Perhaps what is often assigned to the responsibility of God is actually the doing of our own foolish behavior.
Sometimes the difficult and trying situations in our lives have less to do with God and more to do with us. We can bring hardship onto ourselves. Often times, the “trials” we endure are nothing more than:
- Personal laziness
- Financial mismanagement
- Rampant worry
- Undisciplined use of time
- Relational immaturity
- Professional misconduct
- Foolish choices
- Lousy eating habits
- Lack of exercise
- Selfish behavior
- Sexual impropriety
- Spiritual arrogance
What some people call a “trial,” God calls a consequence.
God is not to blame for their current misfortune. The fault squarely rests at their own two feet. It may be a lifestyle (or a lifetime) of foolish habits rather than the difficult side of their heavenly Father’s loving discipline.
When it comes right down to it, their lives are more a portrait of the promiscuous fool in Proverbs than the persecuted saint of the epistles. They just don’t know it. Convinced the only explanation for their “trial” is God “at work in their lives,” they simply cannot see that the trying time they are currently enduring has nothing to do with Him at all.
He’s not working on them; he’s waiting on them. He’s waiting for them to make the first move toward better choices and wise behavior.
Quit waiting for God to deliver you from the difficulties you create. He can. He might. It’s just not typically something He does to spare us from the messes we make.
No wonder it feels like God is so quiet and far away from us. No wonder it seems like He’s not hearing our cries, opening a door, making a way, putting up a hedge, giving an answer, providing a ram, sending manna, or whatever other overused idioms we employ for God’s anticipated intervention.
Because He’s not intervening!
And He’s not going to, either.
Not until we take responsibility for our own lives.
We plead for God’s mercy in the faith He will deliver us from the difficult trial He has chosen for us to endure. Like the psalmists of old, we cry out, “How long, O Lord? Why, O why, have you forsaken me? Will you forget me forever?”
God rarely answers the prayer to fix what was our responsibility to take care of in the first place.
- God is not going to fix the broken marriage because you refuse to have the really difficult conversations that need to happen for reconciliation.
- God is not going to relieve the oppressive financial shortfall until you learn that a credit card is not the way to get what you want when you want it.
- God is not going to heal the numerous physical maladies you frequently suffer until you discipline yourself to stop abusing your body with a poor diet, a lack of exercise and insufficient rest.
Pray all you want. God is not inclined to whining. As our Heavenly Father, God is not given to doing the hard work for his children. He’s never been much of a fan of creating spoiled brats by doing everything for them because they cry. In His book, that’s a poor parenting model in spite of its contemporary popularity.
I’m suspicious that for some people it’s just easier to blame God. They use the term “trial” to throw God under the bus and claim “the testing of our faith” as some noble cover for their own poor habits.
As one trial leads to the next, and another six months pass without any break in the rainstorm that has befallen our lives, our faith falters. We beg God for relief. We plead for an answer to the question of how long our misfortune will endure.
Is it possible a very wise and patient God’s answer might not be quite what we are prepared to hear from a loving, heavenly Father?
“You’re asking Me how long will your “trial” last? Well, it will last as long as it takes for you to start assuming responsibility for your own choices instead of waiting around for Me to rescue you from the trying circumstances created by your own bad habits.”
- You know how much money you make. Live within your means. Spend less than you earn. Quit abusing your credit cards. Set aside some money for emergencies before accumulating more stuff to store in your garage. Start with simple things like doing without it, making it last, and waiting until you can afford it without compromising more important financial priorities.
- That extra thirty pounds you’re carrying around is compromising everything from your immunity to your enthusiasm. Start with a healthy diet and some regular exercise, and see if that doesn’t help with how you feel.
- Those jobs you keep losing? Before looking for new work, maybe it’s time to do the hard work of taking an honest look at your work ethic, professional self-awareness, skills development, and relational IQ.
- The people in your life are not your enemies. Your enemies are your insecurities, your selfishness, your lack of common courtesy, your arrogance, your stubborn inflexibility, your passive-aggressive tactics, your relational immaturity, your manipulative ways, and your general neglect of others until you need something from them.
Waiting around for God to fix what is difficult about your life is a bit like waiting around for the car dealer to drop off a new vehicle in your driveway to replace the one you’ve driven into the ground by your abuse and neglect. It’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen.
Pray for deliverance, if that helps you bide the time. Just don’t plan on it, wait for it, or expect it. Not saying He won’t. I'm just saying it’s not His character to save us from our neglect of His wisdom.
- Your financial hardships are not going to go away until you honor God’s guidelines for wise financial management.
- Your relational difficulties are not going to disappear until you practice God’s instructions for how to treat other people.
- Your professional discontentment is not going to change until you align yourself with God’s unique design for your life.
- Your physical maladies are not going to get better until you start taking better care of yourself as a good steward of God’s temple.
A lot of unanswered prayer is just God waiting for us to get off the couch and get busy doing what is ours to do when it comes to our health, our marriage, our money, our career, and even our happiness!
Yes…I believe in trials as the Scriptures speak of them.
Yes…I believe God ordains trying situations in our lives in order to help us better understand important lessons about living by faith.
Yes…I know some people have very difficult lives due to circumstances beyond their control.
However, I am just not convinced that what some Christians call “trials” are really a “test of faith” at all. That which is difficult, disappointing, and disorienting may be nothing more than our own doing.
Begin with an honest look at your own culpability in your current crisis. There you just might find fresh insight into understanding what God wants you to learn through what you have mistakenly believed to be a “trial.”
Impatiently expecting God to deliver you from the “trials” you have created might leave you waiting around for a very long time.