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
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
"Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes
him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?"
"The hand of the LORD will come with a
very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field"
"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"
"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"
"I sent a plague among you" (Amos
"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
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.