Job understood and expressed how his God gives and takes away. Solomon proclaimed the same truth when he wrote, “The Lord makes men rich, and others he makes poor.” In similar manner, Moses expressed how God sometimes satisfies his children with abundant provisions, while at other times he makes them very hungry. Such triumphs and trials are seen everywhere throughout Scripture. These same dynamics can be found everywhere as one reviews the history of the church. God’s people are oft times found walking on sunshine and enjoying the best of his creation. At other times, those who love him most faithful are found in dire straits.
Therefore, we ought not be surprised at whatever God sends our way. Whether our marriages are dreamy or disastrous; whether our children are prudent or prodigal; whether our personal temptations and demons are fleeting or fierce; whether our wallets are thick or thin; whether our loved ones are happily taken home from the hospital or finally taken home to glory; whether our church membership is growing or going; whether our emotional stability is healthy or hectic; whether our wombs are opened or closed; whether our country is under God or under satan; whether persecution is far or near; whatever we experience, it is the Lord who providentially orders all our experiences. He is the sovereign one who deals the hand we are left to play. it is the Lord who decrees whatsoever comes to pass.
So, why does God — actively or passively — humble his children? Let us listen to the teaching of Moses. For within the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, three reasons are presented as to why God humbles his friends and lets them go hungry:
The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna,
which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. (Deuteronomy 8:1-6)
God makes his children hungry in order to test them. By this testing, God does not need to learn the true condition of a person’s soul. God is omniscient, and he knows those who are truly his. They are such because he changed their hearts and sovereignly called them to himself. No, instead, the test is for the benefit of the test taker. Those who are buffeted by the sovereign God and still find themselves worshiping and obeying him, they are those who are proving to be true disciples. They are those who are not turning back. They are those who are producing fruit with lasts. They are those who are making their calling and election sure. Therefore friends, the way in which we handle our trials and tribulations shows whether or not we are persevering disciples of Jesus Christ. Will you lift high the cross, or will you deny Christ and prove yourself to be a Judas?
God makes his children hungry in order to educate them. Not only does God wish to show men who they are, but he actively improves their knowledge of him. Quite often, God puts people at the end of their rope so they might experience the mighty power of his outstretched hand. Man does not live by bread alone. Neither does man live by physical strength, human wisdom, financial power, political friendships, blissful marriages, or medical and technological advances. Oft times, God makes men sorrowful and hungry in order to teach them they must rely on him to supply their needs. Brothers and sisters in Christ, is it God in whom you trust? Be ready, he is always willing to help you learn to trust him more.
God makes his children hungry in order to discipline them. Sometimes, discipline is for the purpose of reclaiming a backslidden and foolish worshiper. (I.e. Corporal discipline in the principal’s office; Jonah’s storm) At other times, discipline is given to the submissive worshiper with the intent of making him stronger. (I.e. Physical discipline on the athletic field or in the musician’s studio; Paul’s thorn in the flesh) Either way, discipline is necessary to improve the child, the athlete, the musician, and the Christian. So as a good father disciplines, improves, and matures his children, so the good God promises to discipline, improve, and mature his church. Soft believers are made stronger through adversity allowed by the Heavenly Father.
Therefore friends, in the season of trial, let us not despise the testing, education, and discipline of the Lord. Hard providences are for our good. We do not have to seek such opportunities; they will come our way on their own. However, neither should we become anxious, fearful, hopeless, depressed, or angry in the midst of these tumultous seasons. It is good that there is bad that God’s good purposes might be accomplished.
Secondly, let us not compromise in the season of testing, education, and discipline. To relive pain by sinning is a horrible transgression. To maintain such a posture and trajectory proves that one is not truly a disciple of Jesus Christ. Let us commit to worshiping God and doing right though he slays us.
Finally, let us not think God has lost his “loving feeling” for his bride. He is the Good Shepherd who leads us into green pastures and beside still waters. Yes, he anoints our heads with oil and restores our souls. However, he is also the divine guide who leads us to and through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But even then, while he allows harm to threaten us for his glory and our good, he prepares a table for us in the presence of his and our enemies. But let us keep our eyes on the prize. For on the other side of the valley, there is found the house of the Lord where we shall dwell with him forever. Yes, God humbles us. He makes us hungry. But in the end our stomachs will be full and our cup will still be running over. Following humiliation, exaltation is experienced.