When Trouble Comes
"The Lord had closed her womb" (1 Samuel 1:5)
Today’s Scripture (1 Samuel 1:5) is about a lady named Hannah, who was to become the mother of Samuel the Prophet, who would be Judge of Israel. At the time this was written, Hannah had no children, and that was the great problem in her life. She had a husband named "Elkanah" who loved her, as it says, but life became complicated for he also had another wife named Peninnah, who had given him sons and daughters (1 Samuel 1:4). Things were difficult for Hannah, because not only did she personally lack children by Elkanah, but "her rival…would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb" (1 Samuel 1:6). Elkanah’s other wife had become really annoying in the way she treated Hannah.
Enclosed within both verses 5 and 6 of 1st Samuel are the identical words, "The Lord had closed her womb." This is important because many have believed and taught that our good Lord, if He is good, (and He IS good – utterly good), would never allow us to experience problems in life. If something goes wrong, that philosohy concludes it must be due to some error on our or someone else’s part – We lacked sufficient faith, or there was sin in our lives – something or someone caused it! (But not God, according to that idea).
For those who believe that God DOES cause (or allow) some kind of harm to come to "good" people, it’s often in relation to blame (we are a race of people who like to assign blame). The question is asked: "How could a good God allow this to happen to my child – to ME?" Often this is a pretext utilized in order to refrain from receiving our Lord in a personal way. "If God isn’t good, why would we want Him?" they seem to be asking, and reject the One who allowed this to occur.
There are very good reasons why God might allow trouble to come into our lives, but first, let’s establish whether or not He ever DOES cause or allow such things. Actually just one such occurrence (like "The Lord had closed her womb") would establish the principle, but there are many more examples, and here are a few:
- "The LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife" (Genesis 12:17)
- "Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" (Exodus 4:11)
- "The hand of the LORD will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field" (Exodus 9:3)
- "The LORD will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword" (etc.) (Deuteronomy 28:22)
- "The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust" (Deuteronomy 28:24)
- "The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies" (Deuteronomy 28:25)
- "The LORD will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with hemorrhoids (ouch) and with the scab and with the itch" (Deuteronomy 28:27)
- "The LORD will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart" (Deuteronomy 28:28)
- "The LORD was against the city with very great confusion, and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that hemorrhoids broke out on them" (ouch again) (1st Samuel 5:9)
- "I withheld the rain from you" (Amos 4:7)
- "I sent a plague among you" (Amos 4:10)
- "An angel of the LORD struck him because he did not give God the glory" (Acts 12:23)
- "There was given me a thorn in the flesh…concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you…’" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 – essentially the Lord responded with a strong "No" to Paul’s prayer
Again, this is just a sampling, and the point is that God DOES either cause or allow trouble to come into the lives of people just like you and me. The question is – Why? Actually, there are several reasons and we will look at just a few of them.
It is true, by the way, that much of our trouble is caused by the enemy (Satan). But even his activities have a usefulness in the good and perfect hand of God. As an example, look at Job Chapter 1. It was Satan who did all those terrible things to Job, but we must also look where it started. Satan was before the Throne of God (Job 1:6) and after a few words, the Lord asked Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man…" (Job 1:8). It was like a dare (a challenge) to the evil one, who took the bait and smote Job. This was just like the enemy’s response in relation to the Cross of Jesus Christ. The enemy saw his chance and went for it. But it was the Lord who gave him permission to act, and infinite good has come from the cross of Christ.
And we certainly CAN cause trouble for ourselves. Often our problems are in relation to something we don’t have, but need, like money, a marriage, success in business, health, etc. James tells that at least SOME of our problems come from a lack of prayer. "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2). He went on to say that some of the failures to receive answers are "because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).
On the other side of these considerations is the character of God. He is simply – "Love" (1 John 4:8). Everything He does or allows is designed to bring you to the place of true faith (and you will like what He has in store for you). The Lord God uses sickness and trials like a tool (and so does Satan), but in God’s Hand, the problem is going to have a good outcome, whereas the enemy just wants to kill and destroy. All will ultimately work for good, however, for God is indeed – good (Romans 8:28).
Our God is the one "Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases," and, in Christ, we have the victory, because He "redeems your life from the pit" (Psalm 103:3-4). We have established who He is, but some questions remain as to WHY He does or allows such difficulties in our lives.
Some of the answers are in James 4:2-3 – We bring part of it on ourselves. Most (but not all) of the examples earlier in this sermon involved people (Pharaoh, et al) who were functioning against the will of God, and needed to be stopped. And He WILL shape our lives to direct us. As we see in the life of Paul: "It was because of a bodily illness that I preached the Gospel to you the first time" (Galatians 4:13). Paul had what was possibly something like a "cold" or the "flu" and it was not because he lacked faith or was a sinner, but it was in relation to the need of the Galatians.
We have trials that are intended to prove our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). The recipients of Peter’s letter had been "distressed by various trials…that the proof of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." He’s going to allow trials in your life that will increase your faith and eventually, you’ll become glad that He did.
But the best of all, is that we have troubles so that we might become equipped to help others. We are afflicted "so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:4,6). Who is a person in a wheelchair going to listen to? ANOTHER person who is (or has been) in a wheelchair. And finally, we are afflicted "in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:9). Our troubles may not be about us at all, but are allowed in order to help someone we may not have even met. We are being taken into a life where we can and will love and trust in God, no matter WHAT the circumstances are.
He intends to fashion us into persons who can "Rejoice always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16), "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and "in everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18), for indeed "this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
We thank You, Father, for ALL that has happened in our lives, for You are preparing us in ways we cannot yet comprehend, for Your purposes and the glory of God. We receive and trust in You now. In Jesus Name. Amen.
By : Ron Beckham, Pastor, Friday Study Ministries