Today’s devotion is a “throwback” devotion written by Linda Stoker in our 2010 LUMC Devotional Booklet.
“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, that he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.”
—1 Corinthians 10:13 (Good News Bible)
This scripture has had a powerful impact upon me, both professionally and personally. In it, Paul is encouraging the people of Corinth to avoid conflict and disorder and to be diligent in following Christ. I’ve thought about the tests our church has faced over the years and how they have made us stronger in many ways and hopefully have strengthened our faith. Who would have thought even six years ago that we could have pulled together as a congregation to support the impressive building campaign that is just about finished and the willingness to financially support this additional ministry?
I’m sure this same thought (in a variety of ways) occurred to LUMC members over the past 140 years of our history! Could we survive this conflict, this recession, this pain or whatever the “test” was? God truly gave us the strength to endure earlier trials and provide us a positive way out. And, I think, we as a church congregation are looking to a bright future with lots and lots of possibilities! 2010 looks bright!
But personally I also have struggled with this scripture. Have the personal tests I’ve faced in my life been just that: Each a test? Was I a pawn in God’s scheme of things,
manipulated around to see how much I could endure? It has been tempting to see various tragedies and events in my life as tests and I think that it is the word TEST that trips me up. Surely God is not a game-player, coming up with ways to keep us on our toes to see how faithful we are? Let’s see how much the Stokers can endure!
And then I look at the last lines of this scripture and am given comfort:
“But God keeps his promise, that he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm…he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.”
In the book by Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, I am reminded that God has created everything, the good and the bad, and that laws of nature are in place. (Kushner lost his 14-year-old son before he wrote this book and it is one of the most theologically-powerful books of the 20th century.)
We can’t thank God for just the good and not realize that the bad goes with it. Being a Christian doesn’t prevent bad things from happening and since we are given true free will by God, evil and suffering does happen. If we accept the goodness from God, we have to accept the bad. Not that God causes bad things for whatever reason, as a whim or as a test. Evil exists and bad things do happen, but I draw comfort from the last line that God provides a way out: out of suffering, loss, hopelessness & despair. And God always provides comfort.