When Things Go Wrong

I mentioned some time ago that we need to have a theology of affliction. By that I mean that the Bible has a lot to say about how we are to handle affliction, troubles, and trials. So the Christian woman ought to turn first to the Scriptures to see what her duties are in any difficult situation she finds herself in. Let’s consider a handful.

Have you been wronged? Then we are told to return good for evil.

Are you persecuted? We are to bless those who bring us the trouble and pray for them.

Have you been slandered? Lied about? Jesus is still being slandered today. How does He handle it? He could strike His slanderers down at any given moment, couldn’t He? But He bears with them, fulfilling all His purposes. So when people say all kinds of false things about us, we are to rejoice.

Huh? How do we do that? We are to do these things by faith, by grace. Our flesh certainly is not inclined to do these things, but resurrecting grace enables us to pray for our enemies, to look for opportunities to do them good, to rejoice around our tables in the midst of adversity.

Every one has some kind of trouble or other. Could be health issues, financial burdens, loneliness, broken relationships, and any number of heartaches. Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). We have a Savior who understands these things far better than we do.

In the midst of a trial it is easy to think that no one else understands or feels your pain. That is true. How can they? Do you feel every one else’s troubles and pains? No. You feel your own. So it is important to know that you do have a Savior who has compassion. You must look away from yourself, away from your trouble, and find help from Him.

Years ago I heard a visiting minister tell the story of losing a son at birth. I’ll never forget his words: “So I knelt down beside my wife’s bed and we rejoiced in the Lord.” Were they feeling joyful? No. Were they sad? Yes. Were they broken hearted? Yes. But their joy was in the Lord. They were rejoicing in Him, not in the circumstances. This is faith.

Knowing that God is sovereign over everything all the time is a sweet doctrine. There is nothing outside His control; nothing outside His perfect purpose and plan. He is governing the world and He does all things well. He is in charge of our sanctification. That means He decides our course, He sets the curriculum, and He gives the tests.

And that is another thing to remember. This is a test. God has instructed you in His ways. Now He is testing you to see how well you remember what you have been taught. You know how to take a test. You remember the material. So do it.

This should be a comfort to us in tough times. What are my duties in this? What has God taught me about how to handle a time like this? Try to ace your test. Do your best. Don’t flake out or resign from the class. God will never leave you or forsake you. These tests are for your strengthening and His promises will see you through.

Now I grant this is a very deep subject with many, many applications. So I commend a couple of books to you that I have read over many times and used in ladies’ book studies multiple times. They have shaped my thinking in this area more than I can say. I’ve plugged them many times already, but here they are again: Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment; and Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good.

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13 thoughts on “When Things Go Wrong

  1. Nancy,
    Thank you for your timely reminder. I woke up this morning with such a weary, aching heart. My dear friend, Cindy, was in a horrible car accident two weeks ago today leaving her in a comma with over 30 broken bones(including 22 ribs), on a ventilator (can’t breath with out the support of the rib cage) and severe dammage to her brain stem. The doctors don’t give a very good prognoses but only the Lord knows how this will turn out. Thankfully, this is a believing family, clinging to the Lord when all else seem shaken. Because we are living overseas in Israel, the will be transfered back to the States for continued care. They’ll be moving next week. I just ache for this family and to be honest, for myself- I just plain miss my friend’s companionship. We were the only two home school families here. I ache for their two little girls (ages 7 and 12). I do know that all things work for His glory and our good. He will provide for this dear family. Sometimes, I just need to be reminded to keep on rejoicing! Not a Polyanna type of hype, but an obediant, faith-rooted, resting- type of joy. Thank you for being His gentle tool this morning.

  2. Goodness, I posted the above post before my morning coffee and it shows! Sorry for the spelling errors and such;)

  3. We all need to hear this over and over again. Last week or so I was trying to help my 16yr old daughter with a particular struggle in her life. (It’s been ongoing for a couple of years.) I reminded her of the command in James to “count it all joy” when we face trials. I used the analogy of a “lab” for her – a time set apart to practice what you’ve learned. Labs can be short or long; easy or hard. “Faith labs” all have the same end-goal – learning to look to the Lord for grace, strength, and wisdom so that we can grow to be more like Christ. As we do this, we learn to take joy in Him.

  4. I read your post Maggie and I ached for you and this family.
    A few years ago, my pastors wife had a bad accident while riding a horse. She ended up in a coma with the medical opinion that she was not “supposed” to live. She did, and many, many miracle’s later, she is still with us. She is healing slowly, but she is such a blessing to our church just as she is, wheel chair and all.
    Her story may be encouraging to you right now. Her father started a web site about her story. The address is helpantonia.org
    When a really close friend of mine was going through a hard situation with their premature child, I was reading the book Nancy mentions above, “All things for Good” by Thomas Watson. That book made a world of difference in my perspective. Knowing what other Christians have suffered through faithfully was a real strength to me. It helped me to be faithful to my friend in many ways despite what seemed like wrenching circumstances. Blessings to you Maggie. I will pray for you, Cindy and her family.

  5. Nancy,
    When you’ve used “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” did you create a study guide for it? If not, how did you use it in a group study? Sounds like a great book to use the next time we start a new ladies study.

  6. Thank you, Nancy. Your blog was a timely reminder. I’ve miscarried 4 times, recently losing a baby late in the pregnancy. At this point, my womb is a graveyard. It seems like there’s an assumption out there that every reformed Christian marriage should fill their home with kids (assuming they all can). I understand that miscarriage/loss is included in what Scripture calls a test or a trial, but I’m wondering if there is anything in Scripture that speaks to miscarriage in particular.

  7. Thank you, Crystal, for your encouraging words and prayers. I’m so thankful that we can rest assured in the Lord’s tender handling of each of our lives. Accidents like the one your pastor’s wife had and what Cindy has had are all part of His work in our lives. An above comment likened our difficult times and struggles to labs that the Lord uses to work out our faith. I think the rub is found in the fact that I’d really prefer to pick out which “labs” to attend. Control is an illusion, but I eagerly run after it anyway. I’ll check out the website you mentioned and look into adding both books that Nancy mentioned to our library.

  8. Grace, I am so sorry you are enduring this extremely painful trial. I also have lost children, and I know how tempting it is to feel alone and afraid in that pain. I remember a well-intentioned friend dismissively telling me that I shouldn’t worry because God was in control. I knew very well that God was in control; what I was struggling to grasp was that He still loved me. What I needed to be reassured of was that His control wasn’t that of a despot, but of my tender Father who was strengthening my faith.

    I really hope you are seeking comfort and courage in the Father’s love for you, and that like Jacob you are wrestling with God until He blesses you. The Lord knows whether blessing will come in the way you most desire, or in another unexpected way. But He wants you to wrestle with Him because He wants to know that you love Him. So I pray that you can keep going. And I hope you have a really great cheering squad on the sidelines.

    An elderly friend once reminded me after I lost a child that the Lord Jesus fights for us, and especially in those moments when we are weak and the enemy is whispering discouragement and hopelessness in our ears. As Nancy reminded, He will never leave us nor forsake us in this fight of faith. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble.

    Sometimes we have to remind our 6-year old daughter who is blind that it is good for her to rejoice in her blindness, because God chose her for such a purpose. Out of all the people God could have chosen to reveal His glory in through blindness, He chose her. And He has called her to rejoice in her afflictions because they draw her to her Savior in ways most of us can’t even imagine. He is holding her hand every step of the way. “You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:9-10)

    Sorry for such a long post, but my heart breaks for you and I hoped to pass along some of the encouragement I’ve been given. I will pray for you.

  9. Megan Lindsay,

    What a great comfort to read your post. I’m stunned and humbled that you care. Thanks for your encouragement and prayer. What a sweet, sweet thing that you teach your daughter, a display of His splendor, to have Godly perspective. Her affliction may just give her “eyes to see” like none of us who have vision do. What a good reminder…that if faith is believing what is unseen, when feelings, grief and thoughts are unbiblical, we have to cleave to Scripture, thanking Him for what good He’s up to when by all appearances things look everything but good. Isn’t that the story of the Gospel?

    It’s VERY weird to feel like the fabric of who I am is so wired for motherhood, but not be able to carry children (yet, at least). Counting it all joy, I get to faith-rest not only my heart, but my very being…trusting that He has a good purpose for creating me to be a wife and to yearn (rightly) for motherhood, whether He gives me born children or not. Easier said than done, some days.

    Thanks for caring about people rallying around us, as I hope they did for you. We see grace upon grace at every turn. Thanks also for praying for us…While we submit to His will, we continue to present our requests before the throne, that He might someday fill our home. Covenant succession is so dear to our hearts. Indeed, our only hope is that the Gospel is, in fact, true.

    You’re extraordinarily kind and generous, Megan. Blessings and blessings to you and your family. May you trust Him evermore…


  10. Diane wrote above: Nancy,
    When you’ve used “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” did you create a study guide for it? If not, how did you use it in a group study?

    How did you use this book? I’ve been leading Precept Upon Precept Bible studies for a long time and thought to try something new. Can you write more about how you used this book?

    Many thanks for your time.

  11. Hi Cindy,

    When we used the Rare Jewel (as well as many other books we went through together), I created outlines for each chapter. After creating a general outline in my first reading, I read it over again making notes and applications on my copy of the outline. Then the ladies read the chapter, came to the study, and we worked our way through it together. I would summarize each chapter and add any thoughts or applications that I came up with, and this usually led to conversation/discussion.

    Hope that helps!


  12. I know this is an old post but, needing some encouragement today, I went searching for help and I found it. I am going to order these two books. What comfort to rest in God’s sovereignty. I see other Christian women — some of them my dearest friends — who seem to never suffer affliction. I seem to see no end of it! Some of it my poor choices but a lot out of my control. I don’t know why? Why is it different. I am tempted to think that God has it out for me or something. But, I refuse to go there. If I can believe that God is teaching me and testing me, I know that I would do so much better. Thank you. Please keep this up. I am one of those who needs a new theology of affliction. Blessings.

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