The past few days I've thought from time to time about people and their trials in life...the loss of a loved one or other trials can be so difficult to comprehend. (I think anyway).
Over the last month or more I've been reading a book by John Piper "Life As a Vapor". The chapter I read last night (not-so-coincendentally:), helped bring clarity to this topic.
Piper writes "But in reality our pain and losses are always a test of how much we treasure the all-wise, all-governing God in comparison to what we have lost."
He gives examples like: "Deut. 8:3 Moses said, "And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." In other words, God ordains the hard times ("he...let you hunger") to see if we have made a god out of our good times. Do we love bread, or do we love God?"
This reminds me of an example Pastor Mike (from our church) gave of love between husband and wife...he likes to be at church on-time, his wife is running late...if he gets upset with her...he steps back and asks himself: "Do I love my wife more than I love being on time for church?"
This example was similar to me of what Piper was saying:
"And we see that in the life of Paul. When he prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be taken away, Christ told him what God's purpose in the pain was. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Chorin. 12:8-9) The test for Paul was: Will you value the magnifying of Christ's power more than a pain-free life? (Bolding mine)
"God ordains trials to refine our faith and prove that we really trust His wisdom and grace and power when hard times come. (ref. 1 Peter 1:6-7)."
Piper goes on to talk about idolatry, how it can rule in our hearts over our love for God and his purposes...
"Our trials reveal the measure of our affection for this earth - both its good things and bad things. Our troubles expose our latent idolatry. For those who believe that God rules purposefully and wisely over all things, our response to loss is a signal of how much idolatry is in our souls. Do we really treasure what we have lost more than God and His wisdom? If we find ourselves excessively angry or resentful or bitter, it may well show that we love God less than what we lost. This is a very precious discovery, because it enables us to repent and seek to cherish Christ as we ought, rather than being deceived into thinking all is well."
We show His infinite worth by treasuring Him above all things and all persons. Believing in His all-ruling, all-wise sovereignty helps reveal our idolatries in times of pain and loss. Not believing that God has a wise purpose for every event helps conceal our idolatries."
(I know, I should have just told you to read the chapter :)
Piper writes a much more in-depth book on world catastrophies, evil, such as how to understand the Holocaust and other "sinful acts"...the book is called "Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ". I could read it, as my father-in-law just got it, but it might be over my head. Some of John Piper's books are for the academic (theology experts) and some are for people like me :) I'll have to ask my FIL after he reads it.
I thought I would share my learnings with others...