If/When God Sends Us Difficulties


Depositphotos Image ID: 86547374 Copyright: Johan-jk

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people….”[1]

We like to view God as a Great Benevolent Giver in the sky. We want Him to pour out good gifts to us and make our lives easy for us, and we are disappointed, disillusioned and discouraged when we don’t experience the generosity we imagine and want from God.

God is benevolent for sure, but He is much more than that. He doesn’t just want to give us good things; He wants to give us Himself. In fact, he doesn’t just want to give us Himself, He wants to pour Himself out into and through us to bless others as He desires to bless us.

But, this ultimate desire and purpose of God to bless us takes on a different form than we would like at times. God’s activity in our lives doesn’t always feel like a blessing.

In this verse from 2 Chronicles 7, we learn that God, Himself, may cause difficult things to happen, or simply allow them to happen, in our lives. But why? And what can we do about it?

We need to read the second half of the verse and consider the context in which it was written for a more complete picture.

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”[2]

This was a warning, and also a promise, God made to Solomon as he finished building the Temple. God spoke these words to Solomon weeks after God had appeared in dramatic fashion while Solomon was praying in the Temple, sending fire “down from heaven” to consume the burnt offerings and sacrifices he offered, filling the Temple with God’s glory[3]. The presence of God’s glory was so great, so heavy and so preeminent that the priests could not even enter the Temple.[4]

This display and experience of God’s presence caused all the people who saw and experienced it to bow down “with their faces to the ground”, to worship the Lord and to praise Him, saying, “Truly, He is good, truly His lovingkindess is everlasting”.[5] This is what we like to call a “mountaintop experience” – an experience of the overwhelming presence of God and a sense of His goodness and grace towards us. Anyone who has experienced such an overwhelming sense of God’s presence knows the power of it.

The only response when God “shows up” like this is to worship and praise Him. The experience can be monumental, even life changing. That sense of God’s presence often carries with us for days, maybe even weeks. Solomon and all Israel continued to gather, feasted and offered sacrificed for seven days after their experience of God’s presence and glory, and then they went away “rejoicing and happy of heart because of the goodness that the Lord had shown….”[6]

It was after this mountaintop experience that God appeared to Solomon. While the people were still glowing from their experience with God, God told Solomon there may come a time in the future when I will cause bad things to happen to you…. but why would God do that?!

They just experienced His goodness and lovingkindess, why would God send drought and pestilence to oppress them if he is good and loving?

Well, … because He is good and loving.

Anyone who has had a mountaintop experience with God knows that “glory” fades away as we go back to the mundane routines of our lives. Maybe that is because we tend to stop doing the things we were doing when “God showed up” – like praying, worshiping, praising and devoting our undivided attention to God. Maybe we are simply meant to live our lives in the valleys, rather than the mountaintops. I don’t know.

Things don’t grow as well on mountaintops as they do in the valleys. Maybe this is by design that we must trudge along in the valleys most of our lives – because that is where the growth takes place. The valleys are the fertile soil in which God works His change in us.

Most of us can’t live on the mountaintops. Most people don’t live there – the people Jesus wants to reach. God emptied Himself of His glory to become a human being and to live and walk in the valleys with us because that is where people live.

Life in the valley is hard. We get discouraged. We get distracted. We forget the view we had from the mountaintop, and we lose faith. We despair, we fall into sinful attitudes and we chase after desires other than our desire for God. Even God’s people often go astray in the valley.

This is why God gave Solomon the warning. The New American Standard Translation puts the warning in a conditional context: “If I shut up the heavens….Other translations put the warning in the positive: “When I shut up the heavens….” It could be translated either way.[7]  It makes no practical difference.

A clue to why God might (or would) do these things He warned about is in the second half of the verse: If/when God sends difficulty our way, “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

We only have to humble ourselves if/when we become prideful. We only need to pray and seek God if/when we have stopped praying and seeking him. We need to turn from our wicked ways only if/when we have become sinful in our attitudes and/or actions.

God is not arbitrary. We may see no rhyme or reason to what happens to us, but God is sovereign and in control. The difficulties that come our way are intended to bring us back to God. They are intended to trigger us to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek God and to repent (turn away) from our sinful tendencies, lifestyles, thoughts and actions that we allow to creep into our lives – things that separate us from God .

If we remember God’s warning, and His promise, difficulties should prompt us back to God because He says He will hear us. He will forgive us. He will heal our land. And God added, as if for emphasis: “Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive ….” and we should not miss the significance of Temple. The full statement of what God said to Solomon  is this:

“Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. And as for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked….”[8]

God made this promise to Solomon in regard to the prayers offered in the Temple, but He makes this promise to us wherever we are because we are the temples of God[9], if indeed we have dedicated and consecrated ourselves to God (just as Solomon dedicated and consecrated the Temple to God in his time). God’s heart is perpetually “there” for us if/when we walk with God (as David walked with God).

One more thing bears mentioning. God wants us to “seek his face”. We often want only God’s hand – what He can give to us. God is not content to give us what we want, or even what we think we need; He wants to give us Himself. When we seek God, we need to seek God for who He is, in order to have relationship with Him, because that is what God wants for us most of all.

What good is to us to gain things and forfeit God?

God’s relationship with the nation and people of Israel is an archetype of His relationship with us. He desires us – our hearts and our very selves – and He desires us to desire Him. He sends difficulties our way to remind us to humble ourselves, pray, seek Him and turn from all those things that pull us away from God.

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[1] 2 Chronicles 7:13 (NASB)

[2] 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB)

[3] Kāô – properly, weight, heaviness (“substance”) – preeminently, God’s glory having intrinsic weight – His eternal Essence with infinite substance.

[4] “Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’S house.” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2)

[5] 2 Chronicles 7:3

[6] 2 Chronicles8-10

[7] The word translated “if” or “when” is הֵן hen, meaning literally, lo! Or behold!.

[8] 2 Chronicles 7:13-17

[9] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”)

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Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, Faith, grace, Hope, prayer, Sin

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