You know the old adage, I’m sure: To whom much is given much will be required. Or, to express it in the words of Jesus, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” The point is clear: God holds us responsible for all that we have. Said otherwise, God holds us responsible for all that he bestows upon us.
We tend to think of this principle when we consider all the good gifts we receive. We are to be faithful stewards of our money, acknowledging that those who have an abundance are particularly responsible to give with liberal generosity. We are to be faithful parents to our children, acknowledging that they are God’s children before our own. We are to be faithful pastors, keeping watch over all the flock as those who will have to give an account to the true Shepherd. It’s a principle that acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all the blessings we receive and our responsibility to discharge our duty faithfully.
But while we tend to consider this principle when it comes to the good things we receive, who’s to say that it doesn’t apply every bit as much to the difficult things? After all, just as God’s providence directs the sun it also directs the rain, and just as it directs times of laughter it also directs times of weeping. If prosperity comes from his hand so does poverty and if health can be his plan for us so may be sickness. It is not merely the good that we are responsible for, but also the difficulties. For they, too, are within his will.
And so as we encounter times of pain and illness, times of sorrow and loss, times of poverty and want, we should not merely ask, “How can I endure this?” or “How can I get out from under this?”, though certainly those questions may be appropriate. We should also ask, “How can I steward this? What is my duty in this? What does God mean to accomplish through this?”
What if Joni Eareckson Tada had chosen to live a life of despondency rather than embracing her disability as God’s will and as her particular ministry to God’s people? What if Susannah Spurgeon had pined away in self-pity rather than allowing her bed to become her office, the means through which she would send books to so many needy pastors? What if Amy Carmichael had allowed the poor health that forced her to leave Japan to end her missionary career rather than accepting it instead as God’s will to divert her to her ordained mission? What if Job had given up after the loss of all he held dear, what if David had dropped out after the death of his son, what if Paul had quit the field after being beaten the first time, or even the second or third?
All of these, and so many more, accepted their suffering as stewardship. They accepted it as something precious and meaningful and understood that it had called them to new duty, new obedience, new ways to be useful to God. And we have all benefited. We have learned more from how they endured their times of suffering than their times of joy, from their times of lack than their times of abundance, from their times of illness than their times of health. For while we may have learned what they professed to believe in days of sunshine, we have learned what they really believe in days of rain. And it has been a blessing and inspiration to us all.
Each of these did what we are all called to do—to embrace our sorrows as somehow consistent with God’s will, and to turn that sorrow outward in love for others and service to God. To whom much is given—even much sorrow, much pain, much suffering—, much will be required, for these give us unique opportunities to serve God’s people and showcase his glory.