My senior class in high school put on the musical “Fiddler On the Roof,” and while I am not the most theatrically inclined guy, a girl I liked was in the play, so I also auditioned. She got a lead role. My lack of talent landed me in a group where I could do the least damage, a group referred to in the script as “crowd.”

It dawned on me that I had committed myself to weeks of rehearsals that would get me no closer to the girl. I could relate to Tevye’s feelings about life’s injustices in the lines of the song “If I Were a Rich Man”: “God who made the lion and the lamb, you decreed I should be what I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?”

We all have pretty good confidence in our own ability to assess what is truly best for us. But do we really know what would ultimately bring us the highest good? What if the Lord is trying to weave a “better best” into our journey? 

Could it be that God knows more than we do about things that contribute to the health of the soul and the development of our character? Deep down, we all know the answer. Still, like Tevye in “Fiddler,” we often pine for an easier life. It’s only human to do so. But what could be the value of the struggles and stresses that God allows in?

God is loving and good, yet life can be brutally rough. What’s the deal?         

It is common to assume that part of God’s job description includes the responsibility to make our lives easier. But previous generations didn’t think this way. Centuries of faithful folk have lived under the convictions that character is built and valor is displayed not when life is always rosy (which is impossible) — but when noble purpose is consistently maintained even in the midst of hardship.

At the Nicene Council (an important church meeting in the 4th century A.D.), the suffering that was endured for cherished beliefs was on vivid display. Of the 318 delegates attending, fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or a hand; few did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith. We are the beneficiaries of those who did not make their service to God contingent on being given what was necessarily "easy."     

Humans tend to seek earthly things over God. We are prone to quest after this or that, often oblivious to the fact that what our hearts truly desire is not found on earth. We continue to long for something even after getting that new car, achieving the promotion at work, or buying the dream house.

It’s important for Christian children to understand that the things of this world don’t ultimately satisfy — yet seeking God does satisfy.

Here are 15 reasons God doesn’t always make life easier. Maybe — just maybe — God has a purpose in allowing some pain into our lives. 

Suffering:

1.) uncovers what is really inside of our hearts.

2.) breaks us of our pride.

3.) can mature us.

4.) can breed humility.

5.) can jumpstart our prayer life.

6.) may prompt a non-believer to see the need for God.

7.) may lead a Christian to admit and forsake sin.

8.) can deepen our appreciation for Scripture.

9.) helps us appreciate others who were victorious.

10.) can take our eyes off ourselves and this world.

11.) can teach us firsthand that God truly is sufficient.

12.) can connect us with other people.

13.) can reposition one’s life for new areas of vocation or ministry.

14.) can make us grateful for what we had or still have.

15.) properly handled, will result in rewards in heaven.

God has a wonderful plan for each person’s life. That is my firm belief. But in order for His plan to unfold and life’s story to be written, God must free us from selfish attitudes and teach us to have full assurance that we can trust Him in all things. We should bring our needs to God in confidence — but He sometimes expects us to do without so we can develop endurance and patience.

We are never promised an easy life, but we do know that God will walk with us through our ups and downs (Hebrews 13:5). We also know that sometimes He is disciplining us out of love (Proverbs 3:11–12; Hebrews 12:10–11).

Life’s inevitable hard times come — but the upside is that such tough experiences teach us to trust in God.

Dr. Alex McFarland is a preacher, speaker and author of 15 books, including his latest, "The God You Thought You Knew." He hosts "Exploring the Word" on American Family Radio and "Viral Truth," which airs on NRB Network.

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