Sometimes, we as Christians have a tendency to want to believe that if we love and follow God, we’ll wear only smiles through life. This belief is manifested in multiple ways. It’s easy to point fingers at Joel Osteen and similar big-names and say they’re promoting a prosperity Gospel. But what if our version of a prosperity gospel is simply more subtle? Joy doesn’t mean we know no sadness. Knowing God will use bad things for good doesn’t mean bad, difficult, soul-wrenching times won’t exist. Being a good Christian doesn’t mean we deny emotions, suffering, and pain. Sometimes our eagerness to have others know the genuine goodness and love of God deceives us into marketing our faith, packaged in a promise of an always-sweet outcome. Tim Keller tells us well:
“The story of Jesus standing before the tomb of Lazarus is an endless source of insight for me. As he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was not smiling. He was angry. He was weeping. Why? Because death is a bad thing! Jesus wasn’t thinking, ‘They think that this is a tragedy, but no harm done! I’m about to raise him from the dead. This looks like a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s really a good thing! It’s a way for me to show my glory. It’s really exciting! I can’t wait!’ He wasn’t thinking that. Jesus was weeping at the tomb, because the bad thing he’s about to work for good is bad. The story of Lazarus does not give you a saccharine view of suffering, saying bad things are really blessings in disguise or that every cloud has a silver lining. The Bible never says anything like that! God will give bad things good effects in your life, but they’re still bad. Jesus Christ’s anger at the tomb of Lazarus proves that he hates death. He also hates loneliness, alienation, pain, and suffering. Jesus hates it all so much that he was willing to come into this world and experience it all himself, so that eventually he could destroy it without destroying us.
There’s no saccharine view in the Christian faith. The promise is not that if you love God, good things will happen in your life. The promise is not that if you love God, the bad things really aren’t bad; they’re really good things. The promise is that God will take the bad things, and he’ll work them for good in the totality.”