Misery’s Ministry

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In their misery they will earnestly seek me.  (Hosea 5:15)

I don’t know anyone who welcomes misery and misfortune, yet our verse today contains an important biblical truth: Adversity is very often the means our Lord uses to get our attention and return our affections to Him.

No one has ever put a sharper point upon this truth than C. S. Lewis.

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

The Great Shepherd knows all too well that His sheep are prone to wander . . . and we do wander! We wander away from prayer. We wander away from His presence. We wander away from His protection. We wander away from His provision. And in doing so, we stumble into a myriad of unforeseen problems and predicaments that deliver painful providences to us. But as Lewis said, it is in this pain that our Great Shepherd shouts to us and draws us back into His fold. Indeed, pain has its purpose, and misery has its ministry in the life of the believer. The key is to receive it and respond to it rightly.

Think back over your life for a moment. Surely you can recall times when misery ministered to you in a profound way. I could cite any number of examples from Scripture, but let’s look at just one: the reluctant prophet Jonah. When God called on Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah wanted no part of it; he ran from God and boarded a ship that was going in the opposite direction.

At that point, wouldn’t it have been so much easier for God to simply call on another prophet? It wasn’t like God’s plan for the great revival at Nineveh could not have been accomplished without Jonah. I mean, if the Lord can make a jackass speak (Numbers 22:28) and Tommy Boland preach, surely He could have sent someone else to preach God’s message of impending judgment to the people of Nineveh. But God loved Jonah far too much to leave him in his self-centered condition. And so the Lord sent a great storm upon the sea and appointed the great fish for Jonah’s good, not God’s.

Have you ever stopped to think what those three days and nights trapped inside the belly of a fish must have been like? Words like “happy” and “comfortable” don’t come into my mind at all. God appointed a ministry of misery—not to punish Jonah, but to teach him about God’s amazing grace and love and to begin to draw Jonah back into right relationship with the Lord.

It’s no different with you and me. God simply loves us too much to let us go our own way. So He intervenes by sending storm winds that will blow us onto the rocks of His righteousness. Yes, it is painful; often the pain seems unbearable. But it is a pain that points us back toward our Savior. Make no mistake, painful providences in the hands of our Prince are sent for the strengthening of our soul and the furthering of our faith. Misery does indeed have its ministry in the life of the believer . . . and that includes you.

So regardless of where this message finds you today and what trials may seem to be overwhelming you, fear not, Christian, and faint not, because your loving, faithful Savior is using it all to accomplish His good purposes in your life. Remember, all of the promises of Jesus are as true today as they were when He spoke them. “In this world you will have trouble,” He said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He has overcome the world, and He will even overcome our reticence, our resistance, and even our outright rebellion when we, like Jonah, stubbornly determine that we are going to strike out in the wrong direction.

Sometimes we are not the cause of our troubles; they simply come knocking at our door. And then there are those times when our sinful hearts have caused that distress. Either way, the Master’s ministry of misery is always at work, causing us to return to our first love, the One who loved us before the world was ever created and will continue loving us for all eternity: Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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