How are you these days? When I heard from you last night, my heart couldn’t calm down for a long time. Thinking back, as we first believed in the Lord, you told me that no matter how rough the path ahead would be, you would follow the Lord all your life. At that time, you had a particularly strong confidence and I always saw your face brimming with a happy smile in the church.
Time flies; now you are a mother of two children. You said in the letter that you feel much pressure: Neither your work nor your husband’s business goes smoothly, and your children disobey you. These things make you feel that all misfortunes come upon you.
You also told me that you are so miserable and depressed that you become a person who often complains, losing your previous obedience and love for the Lord. Besides, you seldom read the Bible or go to the church, which causes a deep gulf between you and the Lord and makes you doubt whether the Lord likes you. Facing unfortunate events, you feel no gratitude but are riddled with suffering and annoyance, and in no mood to sing the song “There Is True Peace in the Lord” anymore. You don’t know how to achieve obedience to God when encountering unfavorable things and adversities.
Lele, I can appreciate how you feel, and I know the pain that we want to obey God but can’t in difficult circumstances. After all, we all like comfort; who is willing to suffer? For us, submitting to miserable environments is like gulping down sand.
So, when unfortunate events and adversities come upon us, what exactly should we do to achieve obedience to God?
1. Correcting the Wrong Views on Belief in God
Lele, we should reflect on how we prayed to the Lord during our faith in Him these years. The most commonly said prayers are: “O Lord, I ask You to give me a good job, and I will worship You faithfully”; “O Lord, I ask You to bestow a happy marriage on me”; “O Lord, I beg You to bless me and my family so that we may have a good business, live a happy life, and my child can enter a good college.” … These are what we’ve pursued since we believed in God.
When God’s blessings come upon us, we feel happy, saying “Thank You, God” repeatedly; while when we face adversity, we complain against God in our hearts, and even become estranged from Him. Why is there such a drastic change in our attitude toward God? It is because of our wrong views of pursuit in belief in God.
Lele, I’d like to share a passage of God’s words with you: “How many believe in Me only so I would heal them? How many believe in Me only so I would use My powers to drive unclean spirits out of their bodies? And how many believe in Me simply to receive peace and joy from Me? How many believe in Me only to demand from Me more material wealth, and how many believe in Me just to spend this life in safety and to be safe and sound in the world to come? How many believe in Me only to avoid the suffering of hell and to receive the blessings of heaven? How many believe in Me only for temporary comfort but do not seek to gain anything in the world to come? When I brought down My fury upon man and seized all the joy and peace he originally possessed, man became doubtful. When I gave unto man the suffering of hell and reclaimed the blessings of heaven, man’s shame turned into anger. When man asked Me to heal him, yet I acknowledged him not and felt abhorrence for him, man went far away from Me and sought the way of witch doctors and sorcery. When I took away all that man had demanded from Me, they all disappeared without a trace.”
Our perspectives on faith in God are just as God’s words reveal: “When one believes in the Lord, fortune smiles upon one’s entire family” and “Living in the blossom of the Lord forever.” Our believing in God is to gain His grace and blessings; once we don’t get what we want from Him but encounter some adverse things and hardship, we will blame Him, becoming estranged from Him in our hearts, unwilling to pray or get closer to Him; all these show that our faith in God is impure and unable to withstand the tests and trials. As we know, our life is not always smooth sailing. During our belief in the Lord, it’s unavoidable that we face some environments or agonizing things. If we don’t first solve our incorrect viewpoints on faith in God, it is very difficult to ensure that we can follow Him until the end. Perhaps at a certain time when we face an event which is hard for us to accept, we will betray God and leave Him.
You know what? A little while ago, some misfortunate situations happened to my family. At that time, my spirit became weak, for I couldn’t figure it out: I read the Bible every day and observe church services; why should I encounter such things? Later, I read the passage of God’s words I shared with you above, and then realized that my view about faith in God was wrong: My belief in Him is in order to gain blessings. When God bestowed grace and peace upon me, I felt incredible gratitude to Him, but when facing unfortunate events, I complained against Him and misunderstood Him. Thinking of how I breathed in and out the breath exhaled by God, enjoyed the sunlight and rain He bestowed, and lived on grains He created, yet never thought of repaying Him, but constantly demanded things from Him, I suddenly found myself so irrational and that I didn’t worship God as a created being; I was really despicable and filthy. Then I understood that if we want to obey God, we must first realize that as a creation, submitting to God is natural, right and proper. Only when we have the sense that a creature should possess can we obey Him and not blame Him.
God’s words say: “I am a consuming fire and I do not tolerate offense. Because humans were all created by Me, whatever I say and do, people must obey and may not rebel against. People do not have the right to meddle in My work, and they are particularly not qualified to analyze what is right or wrong in My work and My words. I am the Lord of creation, and the creatures should achieve everything that I require with a heart of reverence for Me; they should not reason with Me and they especially should not resist. I am using My authority to reign over My people, and all those who are part of My creation should obey My authority.” “The Creator intends to orchestrate all of creatures. You must not discard or disobey anything that He does, nor should you be rebellious toward Him. The work He does will ultimately achieve His aims, and in this He will gain glory.”
From these words, we can see that God’s authority does not tolerate man’s offense. All things God created submit to Him and survive according to the laws He has established for them. Even a blade of grass is manifesting God’s great power with its short life, so how much more should we? In God’s eyes, we’re as small as ants; what qualifications do we have to demand Him not to act this way or that? The most basic sense a created being ought to have is obedience to God.
From historical records, we can see an obvious expression of those who followed God is obedience. For example, Abraham was able to obey God’s demand unconditionally, and offered his only son Isaac; the prophet Jeremiah conveyedall his life and never complained against God when subjected to great suffering and maltreatment; Job was able to obey God’s deprivation and still praised God’s name in trials; and Peter was crucified upside down for God, achieving obedience unto death and the supreme love of God. From them we can see that when they encountered things that didn’t conform to their own notions, they could obey God and have a beautifully resounding bearing of witness. This is mainly because they had a God-revering heart, and possessed the conscience and sense of a creature. They submitted to God just as a servant to his master; no matter how pained they felt at that moment, they still could obey God’s arrangements.
2. Recognizing God’s Earnest Intentions Behind the Adversities
Lele, do you remember Psalms 119:67-68? It says: “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word. You are good, and do good; teach me your statutes.” Psalms 66:12 says: “You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but you brought us out into a wealthy place.” And also, it is written in Isaiah 1:25: “And I will turn my hand on you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin.”
As unfortunate things befall us, we usually focus solely on the surface, yet don’t know God’s intentions behind them. Just like when Abraham was asked to offer Isaac, he didn’t know God’s purpose was to test him, to allow him to be the father of many nations and to successfully complete His management plan; and also, while Job was undergoing the trials, he didn’t know it was a bet between God and Satan, through which God made Satan abandon its accusations against him and allowed him to be a free person. Though we can’t see or fathom the things of the spiritual world, we should hold on to our faith in God, believing that His essence is love. No matter what God does, it is beneficial to our lives, and the unfavorable and miserable environments make us better able to be perfected. It’s just like crops which can’t produce grain if they only receive the sunshine but don’t suffer the trial of wind, frost, snow and rain.
God’s words say: “If you believe in the dominion of God, then you must believe that the things that happen every day, be they good or bad, don’t happen accidentally. It is not that someone doesn’t get on with you or opposes you on purpose; it is actually all arranged and orchestrated by God. What does God orchestrate these things for? … Firstly, He makes you aware of your own corrupt disposition, your own nature and essence, your own shortcomings and what you lack. Only by knowing these things and understanding them in your heart can you cast them off. This is an opportunity for you, you must learn to seize this opportunity and know how to seize it; don’t lock horns and don’t resist. … Through obeying, seeking, praying more, retreating to your spirit and coming before God then, unbeknownst to you, a change will happen in your inner condition. During this period, the reality of the truth is being wrought in you, and you will then progress and will see a change in the conditions of your life. When you have this change, and this kind of reality of the truth, then you will have stature, and with stature comes life.”
Actually, we live in sin every day. When God bestows blessings on us, we thank and praise Him, but when some unfortunate things happen in our lives, we complain against Him in our hearts. In comfortable circumstance, we are unable to realize our unreasonable demands of God, and still think we are faithful believers who have a deep love for Him. Through these unfavorable things happening to our families, our attitudes to God and desire for gaining blessings are exposed in the light, which allows us to clearly see our impurities in belief in God and offers us an opportunity to turn around our wrong views on faith in Him. Therefore, these unfavorable things are actually good things, and even more, feasts for us. God hopes that we can simply worship Him without any extravagant thoughts or demands in our hearts, so He uses all kinds of environments to change us. It’s just like when Job was tested. He lost his property and children, and had the sore boils all over his body, but after he experienced these adversities, his faith in God was elevated, and he thoroughly broke free from Satan’s control. So, if we want to have true obedience, we need to seek God’s will in all things we encounter and know His good intentions.
If we can appreciate God’s good intentions, gradually we can submit to the environments He arranges for us, knowing that regardless of what He does, His intention is to save us and offer us a chance to bear testimony for Him. Lele, if you don’t resist these unfortunate environments but accept them as gifts, you’ll feel very grateful, yet if you regard them as burdens, your life will be very tiring and bitter. In short, seeing things from different angles, we will have different gains.
May we all be able to do this: “Rejoice ever more. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).