When Life Hurts
by David Thurman
via Gospel Minutes (Vol. 56, No. 3; Jan. 19, 2007).
All of us experience hardships from time to time. All of us face struggles that make little or no sense to us. Sometimes the hurt comes from what others do to us. Sometimes we cause our own pain. Sometimes it takes place at work, or in our home or family, or in our finances. The fact is, there are times in each person's life in which life hurts. God knew this was our situation. And that is why He sent His Son to save us. A few months after Jesus was born, we read of an event that reminds us just how painful life can be. And, yet, we learn how much God loves us.
"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, 'Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.' And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'Out of Egypt did I call My Son.' Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, 'A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more,' But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 'Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.' And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in the place of his father Herod he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, and came and resided in the city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene'" (Matthew 2:13-23).
This is not a warm fuzzy story. God sends His Son to offer hope, and Herod causes the deaths of all the little boys in an entire area. We can only imagine the suffering in those families. Had they known this was caused by the birth of Jesus, they might not have been so thrilled to know the Messiah had come. Yet, in the midst of all this hurt, God demonstrates how much He cares for us. Notice what we can learn:
God Is Involved in Life
God warns Joseph in dreams three times. The Lord is watching all this and knows what Herod intends to do. So, God intervenes by warning Joseph to save Jesus' life. Joseph and Mary would have suffered the fate of all the other families if God had not acted to save them. This is the good news in this story. God is not on vacation. He is not way off in the distance watching our lives as some disinterested being. He is involved in our lives, helping us cope with the hurt that He sees. In fact, Jesus came to let us know just how close God is. "Behold, the virgin shall be with Child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, 'God with us'" (Matthew 1:23). God sent His Son to let us know that He is close by and wants to be involved in our everyday lives.
God is not only close, but He is busy in your life. When you are hurting, it is often difficult to see God at work around you. But He is caring and loving and working for your good. God knows how much we hurt, and He stays close by to help.
Evil Acts To Hurt You
While God is busy helping, even to the point of sending His Son to save us, Satan is busy doing all he can to ruin our lives. Satan cannot beat God, but he can hurt God's people. So, when God does the most wonderful thing imaginable, sending His Son to the world, Satan does the most horrible thing imaginable, he attacks children and families. This is a hard lesson for any of us. We think (like those families in Bethlehem must have) that our suffering is unfair. We think something must be wrong with our lives if we are hurting this much. But this story teaches us that when God gets close to us, Satan will come after us with all the tools at his disposal.
This means I cannot promise that if you become a Christian your problems will go away. The opposite can be true as well. It is a fact that Christians suffer in life just like other people. We have turned to God, but Satan has turned against us with even greater fury. So, when God comes into our lives, you can expect Satan to turn up the heat.
God Finishes His Plan
God knows what Joseph, Mary and Jesus need. So, the Lord does all that is necessary to protect and save them. He warns them to leave and head for Egypt. He tells them when it is time to go back and even where to live when they get there. In spite of Herod and his violence, God sees to it that His plan to save man is protected. God sees His plan through to the end.
God not only sees His plan through, He uses all that Herod does to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. Satan does his worst in order to derail God's plan, and God uses his actions to prove that Jesus is the Christ. There is no action that Satan can take that God cannot preempt and use for His own purposes.
We must remember this principle, especially when life hurts. When we are discouraged or afflicted, it can seem that God and good are a long way off. Things may look bleak, but God is still working to see that His plan for your life is successful. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Paul doesn't say all things are good for a Christian. What he does say is that even the painful things we endure are going to be used by God to make good happen in people's lives. Yes, the families of Bethlehem suffered, but God is acting to save the whole world. So, when life looks bad, remember, God is working out His Will in your life and in countless others.
Evil Cannot Stand
The incarnation of Jesus is a joyful event, even though many people suffered. It is joyful because it proves that evil will not be able to stand in the long run. The coming of Jesus to save the world proves that Satan loses. Whatever he does to attack God or God's people will not last. Satan can cause pain. He can create suffering. He could use Herod to attack the little boy, Jesus, and hope to be successful. But all of Satan's evil did not stop God.
This is the good news. God sees to it that Jesus and His family are saved. God knows how wicked Satan can be. He knows Satan can inflict much suffering on people. But, God still wins, as His Son will grow up, will teach and will go to the cross to save us from our sins. And God knows Jesus will come out of that tomb with victory over the enemy. "But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).
So Let God Help You
When life hurts, instead of blaming God, turn toward Him and let Him help. When God warned Joseph, Joseph did not argue with God, he just got up and left for Egypt. Joseph didn't make excuses or think he knew better than God how to be safe. He let God help him, and it saved Jesus's life. When you are hurting, you can turn to a Savior Who knows what you are going through. Look at what Jesus experienced as a child. He was a refugee from Palestine. He had to hide in Egypt to escape death. When He came home, He couldn't go home, He had to move to still another village. This family and little boy went through a lot of stress and turmoil. This means you can turn to a Lord who is not only close, but who is able to understand what you are feeling. "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15,16).
Listen to God's Call
Joseph obeyed God without questioning. In the middle of the night, he took his family to escape Herod's plot. He didn't waste time, he didn't take time to do much of anything. He just left. Maybe he left all of most of their household goods. Maybe they just took what they could carry. There was not much time for anything else. He heard God, and he listened and obeyed.
God can work in your life when you listen and obey. If you are not saved, you can face life hurts and suffering with confidence in God's ultimate victory. But, to enjoy that hope, you must listen and obey. Notice what Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16). Joseph immediately did what God commanded. Be like him and be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins today. You will still face life's hurts, but you will be part of God's plan, and that means you win!