Gen 42:36 And Jacob their father said to them, "You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me."
Act 23:11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome."
You might be wondering what these two verses have in common other than they are both in the Bible. What they have in common is that they both speak of what God calls all Christian to experience in this life. A lot of people, especially those who speak on TV seem to think that once you decide to become a Christian God is so happy to have you in the family he will do whatever it takes to make you happy and trouble free in this life as long as you have faith.
What the Bible actually teaches us is that the call to serve the Lord as Christians is to live in weakness so that the power of God can be seen in us, 2Co 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Co 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Paul is a good example of this in that while he served and glorified the Lord as well as anyone before or after his time, he did it through primarily suffering, not comfort.
With that in mind the above two texts start to come together for us. In Jacob’s case he couldn’t seem to fathom why the Lord was taking his sons away from him. He seems to have resigned himself to this and is willing to accept it from the Lord but he is missing something very important in his thinking. The Lord is not just being cruel; he was actually putting his family through all this in order to supply food for them so that they would not starve to death. He didn’t have Romans 8:28 to read like we do so we should expect more of our faith since we have more revelation to believe in. We know that all the hardships and trials and what to us seems like needless suffering is actually God working in us an opportunity to display his glory and teach us that he is better than what this world offers.
Paul’s case teaches us this also. The Lord tells him that he is going to eventually get to go to Rome and preach the gospel. But Paul isn’t told immediately that the way to Rome is the way of hardship, not glory. The Lord gets the glory when in our weakness we succeed and in suffering we are faithful, joyful and content. So while Paul is fully in God’s will, it is clear that God’s will is trial not comfort.
Let me say it like this: we must not live by his providence but by his precepts. By his providence I mean what seem to us as circumstances. We many times can’t put his providence together to make any sense. It seems like random circumstance even though we know that is not the case. The lost live by “happenstance” of everyday life, unable to make any sense of it, having no direction as to what is going on and what to do about it. We can’t understand his providence but we can understand his Word. Only his Word provides a foundation for living. We can easily misinterpret circumstance just like Jacob did and get depressed or fearful or worried. But if we keep in mind what God says about life we will realize that suffering is what we have been called unto and be patient and joyful in tribulation because we have the light of God’s Word to explain what is really going on and how it is all going to end.
So we live by the Word and watch God do his work and not fall apart in the mean time because this is the way he works. We leave providence to the Lord and worry about what he has revealed to us, Deu 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Why worry about what we cannot know when the Bible is there to guide our way?
Psa 119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Psa 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.