Dr. R.C. Sproul once remarked insightfully that one of the hardest things about being a Christian is believing in a God you can’t see. Philosophers and theologians have seized on this conundrum in Christian theology and have offered a host of arguments to the effect that, because we can’t see God, He must not exist. The logic of such arguments is dubious, but they do highlight a problem common to all those who follow Jesus: How can I trust a God I can’t see when life gets hard?
Adversity Is Not Evidence of Absence
When hard providences of God come our way, our first temptation is to think that these problems are evidence that God is not good, not present, or both. Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout Scripture, we see God’s servants tested with the most grievous circumstances. We need look no further than the book of Job, where we meet that righteous man, and, within a chapter, he has lost everything. Then he laments and pours out his heart to God for the better part of some thirty-five chapters.
The fact that God included a book such as Job in His sacred Word tells us something about Him. It tells us, first of all, that the suffering we endure never happens apart from God’s inscrutable arrangement of our lives. Hardships are neither random nor pointless. Second, the book of Job reminds us that God hears the cries of His hurting children even if He does not fully reveal His reasons for their difficulties. Therefore, adversity, so far from being evidence of God’s absence, is expected and typical in this present evil age. Jesus summarized the Bible’s teaching on this subject well when He said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
Adversity in Union with Christ
The most comforting realization we can come to when life gets hard is not only that adversity is not evidence of God’s absence but also that suffering is the pathway to glory. It was the pathway to glory for Jesus, and it will be the pathway to glory for all of His followers. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3), who bid His followers to take up their cross daily (Luke 9:23). The order is, therefore, irreversible: the cross before the crown, Good Friday before Easter Sunday, suffering before glory.
It makes all the difference in the world to know, however, that our suffering is endured in union with Christ, who went to the cross for us (Heb. 12:2). Because He did not fail—and only because He did not fail—we will not fail, and we will endure. By virtue of our union with Christ, the Spirit who is our down payment will pay faith’s mortgage without fail (Eph. 1:13). In other words, His suffering guarantees our glory. Therefore, when life gets hard, the cross tells us that God is love, even when He seems hidden.