Trials make us grow in our relationship with God
From the CCCF archives (written by Li Sheng Tan) | Easter 2004
Sometimes , it takes a really big source of distress such as exams - or possibly something more drastic, like doing badly in exams, or worse - to wake us up to the fact that we haven't been growing in our relationship with God. When the good times are rolling, we take Him for granted, and drift away on our own pursuits (many of them not honouring to Him). Sometimes, we need some distress in our lives to bring us back to our senses and cause us to call on God again.
I know the tendency is to feel guilty for forgetting about God in the good times and only calling on Him when the going gets tough - and this is a very legitimate rebuke to us for having taken Him for granted in the first place! But believe me, NOT calling on God because of our guilt is the worst possible option in such a situation. We ought to be calling on God ALL the time, in any situation, and we have to start somewhere. A situation or distress certainly qualifies as a situation in which we can and should call on God. And if we don't call on Him, what are we going to do? Continue trying to solve our problems by ourselves? That can only lead us further away from Him.
It's great to know that God always hears us when we call on Him. But there is more to the process than simply using God as a "genie in a magic lamp" to solve our immediate problems. If we look at the psalmist in Psalm 120, calling on God didn't actually lead to immediate deliverance from lying and warmongering evil men - instead most importantly, the psalmist himself was changed. He began to realise that it wasn't his "distress" that was the main issue - the real problem was the state of the world he lived in, and the fact that that world was influencing and affecting him. And perhaps the same is true for us: that calling on God isn't just about "solving my problems", but because I need to be changed. I need to grow in my relationship with God, and part of that growing is to realise that there are real problems with this world that I live in, and with myself as a part of this messed-up world. Perhaps realising this is the first step to positive change - not me changing the world, but God changing me.