Finding Joy in God’s Hard Assignments

Hard times ahead

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy for the living God. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You! Psalm 82:1-2, 11b.

Does your soul long to know and be with the living God? Do you believe that He does not withhold one good thing from you? Do you pray that God will bless you by giving you more opportunities to trust Him?

Our hearts cry yes! We want our faith to be strong and our lives to glorify God. But then we shrink back at the thought of what that might cost. Of course we want lives that bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. We simply have a hard time grasping how incapable our natural hearts are of such things, or how much we need God’s mercy and grace to reflect Christ. And so, “God takes us where we don’t want to go in order to produce in us what we couldn’t achieve on our own” (Paul Tripp).

In other words, God uses the difficult experiences in our lives as instruments to expose our sin so that, through faith in Christ’s work on the Cross, our repentant hearts can be transformed by His grace. Committed to our sanctification, He determines the path that will bring us to the end of ourselves so that we might look to the only One who will satisfy our longing.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in His way; though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down” Psalm 37:23.

God lovingly directs the steps of those who love Him. But never does He promise that we won’t struggle or fall. What He does promise is that He’ll be with us, strengthening us by His grace when He gives us a hard assignment that tests us to the core (2 Corinthians 12:9).

  • God is with the single woman who longs to be married but goes home alone each night.
  • God is with the couple who yearns to start a family, but struggles with infertility.
  • God is with the parents when their child’s diagnosis changes the whole trajectory of their lives, leaving them with grief over their broken dreams.
  • God is with the woman whose husband just informed her that he’s leaving her for a younger woman.
  • God is with the man whose wife just died of cancer leaving him with three children.
  • God is with the husband and wife who are facing bankruptcy.
  • God is with you in your hard place now!

Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a delightful inheritance” Psalm 16: 5-6.

Secure? Pleasant places? Delightful?

Secure is not the way we typically feel when bills mount faster than the income comes in to pay them. Pleasant doesn’t describe circumstances that throw us into a state of confusion, grief, and chaos. And knowing we have a delightful inheritance doesn’t offer much relief when our lives seem to be falling apart.

Psalm 16 confronts us with a God who sovereignly ordains the course of our lives, even when life doesn’t go as planned. Many people wrestle with this when they can’t make sense of a loving God who allows terrible things He has the power to change.

We wonder if God is really good and if He really loves us. If so, why has He allowed this great suffering in our life? If He’s powerful, why won’t He do something about our pain? We want relief from pain, freedom from stress, and a heart that’s at rest.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, one of the most influential preachers in the 20th century, claimed that this  is precisely our problem. We so desperately want a quiet heart that this becomes our main goal.

So when life is going well, we tend to worry that trouble will come. And when our peace gets shaken by hard circumstances, we become consumed with finding relief from whatever is causing our suffering. We simply can’t imagine something good coming from our great loss, pain, or the heartache we feel; so we do whatever we can to avoid or escape it.

But the Bible teaches that, in fact, our most beautiful fruit often comes through suffering; and that the happiness, joy, and peace we so desperately desire, is always the result of an ever-deepening faith in the Gospel.

Through the Gospel, we learn that our biggest problem in life is not the pains we suffer, but the sin that turns our hearts away from God and others. God often uses the hard things in life to expose our selfishness, pride, unbelief, and idolatry; the true enemies that war against us and hold our hearts captive. He wants us to know that having perfect circumstances is not the answer to a quiet heart.

But Jesus tells us how to have a quiet heart.

                                                   Believe in God, believe also in Me,” John 14:1.

This means that our hearts will become settled when we:

  • Believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do (Numbers 23:19).
  • Believe in His might and power and that nothing is too hard for the Lord (Jeremiah 32:27).
  • Believe that God knows all things and will accomplish His purposes in the world He created (Isaiah 46:10).
  • Remember that nothing happens apart from God’s knowledge (Hebrews 4:13).
  • Trust Christ, who gave His life so that we might have life with Him forever (1 John 3:16).

God assigns things that test our hearts and reveal what we believe about Him. And, as much as we don’t like these hard assignments, God purposes them for our ultimate healing and joy.

Do you have a quiet heart that is rooted in the Gospel? Does your heart find peace in knowing that God loves you, chose you, redeemed you, and set you apart for His purposes, including the exact circumstances He has assigned to you?

I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol (the grave), or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” Psalm 16:8-11

God wants to give you and me more than we can imagine. He wants to give us Himself as well as all the riches of heaven. All He asks is that we believe that it’s only in Christ that we will find the peace and joy that we’ve been looking for in all the wrong places.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,

Linda Green

One thought on “Finding Joy in God’s Hard Assignments

  1. Thank you Linda!!

    I love this you said:
    ” God wants to give you and me more than we can imagine. He wants to give us Himself as well as all the riches of heaven. All He asks is that we believe that it’s only in Christ that we will find the peace and joy that we’ve been looking for in all the wrong places.”

    Seeing the Lord say this exact thing to me today! – “only in Christ that we will find peace & joy” 💙

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