I recently posted about two reasons why we experience adversity in life: The spiritual warfare we’re all engaged in and our own disobedience. Another reason, in fact the one that most of us seem to go to first, is that God wants to teach us something.
What intrigues me about that reason, and especially the way we gravitate towards it, is how self-centered it is. As with most things in life, we make it all about us. True, God loves us and He does want us to grow more mature for His glory. So I agree that God wants us to learn from life circumstances. But sometimes our growth might be the result of our circumstances without being the reason for those circumstances.
Take Job for example. The story that unfolds in heaven in the first two chapters of Job does not indicate that God wants to teach Job a lesson. In fact, twice God declares Job to be “a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” God even says that Satan “incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” Did Job learn from the devastating circumstances God allowed him to go through? You bet. Was Job’s education the reason God allowed him to go through it? It doesn’t appear so.
The reason was so that God could be glorified in Job’s life through any circumstances Satan could throw at him. This wasn’t Job’s school — it was his opportunity to put what He had already learned to work for God’s glory.
Dave Dravecky, former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants who lost his arm to cancer, talks about confusing result with purpose in his book, When You Can’t Come Back (p.141). As a result of having his arm amputated, the hospital was able to study his arm to advance its knowledge of cancer. However, that wasn’t the purpose for amputating his arm. Indeed, we would call the doctor a butcher if he amputated someone’s arm just so it could be studied. The purpose was to save Dravecky’s life. But one of the results was the advancement of cancer research.
So I want to learn from all of life’s circumstances. But I don’t want to think that the world revolves around me and my own growth, even when that growth glorifies God. Sometimes God might put me in circumstances for the purpose of causing me to grow. Sometimes He might just want me to use what I’ve already learned. In every circumstance, He wants — and deserves — to receive all of the glory.