I think when difficulties/trials/catastrophes/sufferings are brought to bear on our lives, an apt message to preach to our own soul is always, “Repent!”
It’s so offensive. And the message seems to rub salt in the wound. It’s kind of like, “Hey, I am enduring a terrible loss, the last thing I need to do is be reminded that I’m a terrible sinner.”
And, for many, it seems to imply that if only we had repented sooner, the calamity would not have happened, so then guilt follows, as if we caused the calamity. (For instance, if I hadn’t made an idol of my children, the Lord wouldn’t have taken one away).
But not everyone who loses a child has made an idol of them. So, what then? Is the message still “repent”? And I think it is. God’s purposes in the trials He brings to us are beyond finding out. And I believe the purposes are vast, not singular. And I also believe that for those who are in Christ, they are always good purposes.
[Sidebar: I am NOT advocating that friends who see another friend experience a trial immediately respond with the message, “Repent!” Bad form! We don’t want to end up like Job’s “friends.” And if you are prone to pointing out the reasons why a certain trial has befallen a friend (unless there is obvious consequence-producing sin), think twice. God’s ways are unsearchable. Humble yourself, you may be next.]
Repentance is always good for us and we’re always in need of it.
Shortly after I found out I was pregnant with the little one that the Lord took at 8 weeks, I wrote this:
“Not all calamities and sufferings are given for the specific cause of jerking us out of rebellion. But I dare say that all calamities and suffering should have the effect of causing us to draw nearer to God.
So, I’m praying now, as things are good and blessings flow like water and honey in my life, that I’ll think now about how to respond when calamity comes. That I’ll get a footing for the hard times that I may one day face.
And that my footing will be in the Word and in Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man, without whom, meeting my Maker would be more fearsome than any earthly calamity.”
How often the Lord has brought this to mind as I wage war against being engulfed by sorrow. I preach to myself, “Repent! Draw near to God. Get your footing in the Word. Gaze at the cross. Do not fear the loss of a child, fear the Lord and love Him.”
[Pastor John has some thoughts on repentance and tornadoes today..]