Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. Psalm 119:67
William Shakespeare once wrote, “When sorrows come they come not single file but in battalions.” The same thing could be said of trouble. Trouble is not a single terrorist who quietly stalks you in the night; it rather is a series of frontal attacks, often hitting you where you least suspected a problem.
Troubles comes in all kinds, shapes, and charades. About the time that you breathe a bit easier and think that you are entitled to a well-deserved time of peace and solitude, Bam! Trouble hits you where it hurts.
Is it no wonder that Job, who knew a lot about trouble, cried out, “Man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7). While we generally cannot choose the kind of troubles we face, we can choose our response to them. Troubles translate into difficulties, and whether we like them or not, difficulties are often used by God to accomplish some very good things which otherwise might never happen apart from trouble. Like what? Consider the following ways God uses trouble and difficulty to make us better instead of bitter.
1. God uses trouble and difficulty to redirect your life. It takes some knocks for you to get moving a different direction. At the time you don’t want to move. You are perfectly content, but your troubles redirect you. Joseph was in big trouble when his brothers sold him to Midianite slave traders who took him in chains to Egypt and sold him for a common slave. Later when he had the upper hand as Prime Minister he told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
2. God uses trouble to correct your failures. At times we have no responsibility for difficulty and trouble. At other times we are completely responsible, and a loving God allows the weight of our failures to speak to us so we do right. The psalmist cried out, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Psalm 119:67). Understand, of course, that not all troubles fall into this category. Many if not most of our troubles are the result of living in a broken, imperfect, sinful world.
3. God uses troubles to refine and purify your life. Trouble and difficulty do for you what fire does for silver. It will purge the dross and impurities or else simply destroy you. If you are God’s child, never forget God has His hand on the thermostat and His eye on you when you face the fires of trouble.
4. God uses troubles and difficulties which you would never choose to develop character. Hey, you think, I’d just as soon skip the test and make it without the problems. It’s not your choice; you can choose only whether difficulty makes you better or bitter. A paraphrase of what Paul wrote to the Romans puts it so well: He said, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.” (Romans 5:3,4, Living Bible).
A closing thought. God is not indifferent to your difficulties and troubles. To the contrary He asks you to look to Him for His help. “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God says, words found in Psalm 50:15.
Nahum the prophet did just that as his world was coming apart. He also gave the following testimony: “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7).
Resource reading: Psalm 2