I used to think that good things come from God and bad things from the devil.
I've changed my mind.
One can not reconcile the above thought to the story of Job.
This has been a conundrum for me in the past, whether or not a troubling circumstance is an attack on my life from the enemy (devil) or whether it's from God to make me stronger. How do I pray then? Do I pray for relief from the attack or for strength to persevere?
This last year is when my mind truly changed on the subject. Isn't it amazing how the mind can be changed so easily? You read a book or talk to someone you trust and there you go, a change of thinking has been introduced... but I digress. My mind was changed at a time when I was really struggling with issues inside and out. I had to ask myself what do I really believe and why? I became grounded in the thought that God does not cause bad things to happen.
I have come to the belief that God allows difficulty into our little spheres of life. But, God, what for? I don't always understand the what for, but then, I don't understand His ways either. They are so much higher than mine. My answer to the "what for" question can only come from experience then. It has been in my difficult times--whether they be money issues, relationship issues, internal struggles, sickness, loss--that I have been made to run... run to the Father, my refuge, my help. I have also seen, in my experiences, a purpose in the difficulty, and usually that purpose involves a type of refining or sifting of character. I can list so many things that I have seen sifted out of me: pride, unbelief, worry, selfishness, etc... and they will need to be sifted again, I'm sure ;-D.
"And the Lord said, 'Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.'" ~Luke 22:31
Whoa! Satan asked for him? That is kinda scary. And yet, that shows me, that ultimately, satan is just a puppet, used by God for His purposes.
I have really been enjoying the book "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things" by Beth Moore. It has been especially good for me to read it coupled with her other book, "Breaking Free". In the "Godly People..." book, she studies Job and Peter and asks the same question, why? Why would God allow the devil to "sift" us. She makes a good point in that, if there is sifting going on, then there is something to be sifted out! God wants to refine, sift the fake right out of us, so that we may be genuine. In "Breaking Free" she speaks of the captivities we get entangled in and says, "A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for him/her." I bet those hindrances are ones God aims to get at as well. He sometimes desires our freedom even more than we do!
Of course, I do not welcome difficulty nor look forward to it, but if it means that I will be a little more refined, that He may see His reflection in me, then So Be It! I will try my best to accept it. And to ask, when the difficulties have passed, did you get it out, Lord?!
"THOU givest within and without precisely what the soul needs for its advancement in a life of faith and self-renunciation. I have then only to receive this bread, and to accept, in the spirit of self-sacrifice, whatever Thou shalt ordain, of bitterness in my external circumstances, or within my heart. For whatever happens to me each day is my daily bread, provided I do not refuse to take it from Thy hand, and to feed upon it."
~FRANCOIS DE LA MOTHE FÉNELON~