I hung up the phone, my heart racing. Well that definitely didn’t go the way I had expected, I thought to myself. I had made the phone call at God’s bidding and said what He wanted, but the other person’s reaction hadn’t been the positive one I anticipated.
Afterwards, I sat there fuming at God. Really, God? I knew better than to resist His instruction to me, but I wanted to question His will at the moment. I wanted to run in the opposite direction and refuse to do another thing for Him.
When Doing God’s Will Leads to Suffering
Here’s what I was all tied up in knots about: If He was going to ask me to do an action for Him, I felt that it should end in good. The situation should end with a happy ending, with a ribbon tied in a bow on top. But yet again, I had stepped out to do an uncomfortable action because He had told me to, and it had ended in circumstances that were not what I wanted or planned.
Quite honestly, I felt that there had been too many of those situations lately. To human logic, it makes sense to do the hard thing that results in an award, the raise at work, the leading of someone to Christ, the healing, the miracle. But what about the hard action that leads to persecution, the argument, or the confusing events that don’t add up. What then?
In those scenarios, we can feel like God is being cruel to us because of what He has asked us to do. We may be infuriated by the fact that He has led us to a place where we are encountering hardship that we wouldn’t be encountering if we hadn’t listened to Him. We wouldn’t be the first to feel this way.
In the book of Job, Job becomes fed up with the hardship that has come in his life. He essentially tells God as much, accusing God of cruelty and persecution (Job 30:21, ESV). However, we know from reading the rest of the book of Job that God was not being malicious to Job — nor is He that to us. God allowed the affliction in Job’s life not to be cruel or play a mean game with Job’s life, but because He had a purpose. And Satan, not God, was the responsible party for the trouble that came into Job’s life. God did permit Satan’s actions, but He did so to prove Satan wrong and provide encouragement to many other sufferers who would come after Job.
In fact, God responds to Job’s accusation of cruelty and asks him this important question, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8, ESV). The Message Translation words it like this: “Are you calling me a sinner so you can be a saint?” In other words, God asks Job if he is able to stand against Him on his own righteousness.
In our own lives, when we feel that God is being cruel to us because He has allowed or led us into undesirable circumstances, we see that God is more than capable of running the universe — and often our accusations of Him are made because we don’t understand things from His perspective. As Jon Bloom points in “When God Feels Cruel” on desiringgod.org, we have to trust in God’s goodness despite what our feelings tell us.
Certainly, after listening to God’s argument, Job repents of his original position and acknowledges that God is sovereign and worthy of praise no matter the events in his life. Similarly, in my own situation, while I didn’t get the same monologue God gave Job, God stopped me in my tracks by offering a divine response to my human argument.
What God Says About the Suffering That Comes From Doing His Will
The next morning during my quiet time, as I was still fuming over the injustice of the reality that good doesn’t always come for doing God’s will, I came across this gem of Scripture in 1 Peter 4:19: “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
Say what? I didn’t have to wait for a thunderclap from heaven to signal God’s answer. His response waited quietly right in front of me silencing every complaint I wanted to raise in His direction. I knew He wanted me to stop resisting Him and accept the situation He had ordained in my life. Like Job, I had to acknowledge God’s supreme power and knowledge even when things weren’t making sense according to my own wisdom.
When we’re in a place where we don’t like where God has brought us, we can break down this verse and look at a few ideas that may help us in our circumstance:
1. We will suffer for doing His will.
If we look at other translations of this verse, the wording is arranged to say not, “Those who suffer for doing the will of their Creator” but to say something more along the lines of, “If God’s will is for you to suffer.” For instance, the New Life Version says, “If God wants you to suffer,” and the New Century Version says, “Then those who suffer as God wants.”
No matter which translation you look at, the passage highlights the idea that God’s will and suffering are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes God’s will leads straight into suffering, and it’s difficult to accept in those moments because we don’t always know all the whys.
However, if we look at other sections of 1 Peter, we see that suffering in doing God’s will is something we should rejoice over — not something that should derail us from our calling.
2. Despite what happens, we need to commit ourselves to Him.
I love this next section. The verse tells us what we should do in the situation where obedience doesn’t appear to be paying off: “Commit ourselves to our faithful Creator.” The temptation is to get angry, to tell God we will control things, that we will “take it from here.” But this is where trust comes in. Do we believe He loves us? Do we believe His way is perfect and He knows all things? Do we believe He is worthy of our trust?
The passage assures us that He is trustworthy. In fact, quite interestingly, Peter uses the word “faithful” to describe the One who holds us and all of our circumstances together. He is faithful not just when events are favorable in our life — but even in the midst of suffering.
3. Even when we suffer, we need to continue to do good.
Lastly, the verse urges us to continue to do good even when it doesn’t make sense, the way is hard, and we want to give up. Quite honestly, what we all want to do when our situation doesn’t go the way we thought it would is run in the opposite direction. But this verse urges us to “continue to do good.” And that sometimes is the hardest thing. To continue when you don’t have the results you want, you don’t know why, and it doesn’t make sense.
Friend, we have a God who knows what He is doing. When the way is unclear, and we can’t see what He is doing, the passage urges us to keep on doing what we know is right. My former senior pastor used to say, “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.” In other words, when you have no earthly idea why circumstances are going the way they are or why He has allowed what He has in your life, you can still trust that God is good and His way is flawless.
When I survey my life, I know Him to be a faithful God. I can look back and see how He was constant through times where I was not. He has always been there for me and you, and He will continue to be faithful, or as one of my favorite worship songs says — “do it again.”
Let’s choose to trust Him even when His will leads to hardship rather than good.
* Updated and adapted from post originally published January 19, 2019.