Being a pastor, I love reading good sermons. I recently read a sermon by Thomas Boston (1676-1732) that was an incredible sermon. Boston was a pastor from Scotland who was no stranger to suffering. The sermon was based on this verse: “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). Boston writes about the crook that God has allowed in each of our lives:
As to the crook in your lot, God has made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not change for all you can do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight…There is a certain train or course of events, by the providence of God, falling to every one of us during our life in this world. And that is our lot, as being allotted to us by the sovereign God, our Creator and Governor, "in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways." This train of events is widely different to different persons, according to the will and pleasure of the sovereign Manager…. In that train or course of events, some fall out, cross to us, and against the grain; and these make the crook in our lot. While we are here, there will be cross events, as well as agreeable ones, in our lot alters that course, grates us, and panes us, as, when we have made a wrong step we begin to limp…. Everybody's lot in this world has some crook in it. Complainers are apt to make odious comparisons. They look about, and take a distant view of the condition of others, can discern nothing in it but what is straight, and just to one's wish; so they pronounce their neighbor's lot wholly straight. But that is a false verdict; there is no perfection here; no lot out of heaven without a crook.
Why would God allow each of us to have a crook? Perhaps God wants us to learn to trust him and abandon our self-righteousness. If we never knew suffering, who could stand to live with us? Maybe it is God’s way of teaching us what faith is all about. When we learn to accept the crook in our life and learn to be thankful—maybe that’s when God can really use us.
Boston offers some reasons for the crook in his sermon. First, the crooked things in life are a test to help us determine whether we really are trusting in Christ for our salvation. This was the case with Job, and Job passed the test. Second, whatever crooks there are in our earthly lot turn our hearts away from this vain world and teach us to look for happiness in the life to come. God does not hesitate to use whatever means necessary to prepare us for eternity. This is born out in the parable of the prodigal son. Third, the crooked things in life convict us of our sins. God used this method to change Jacob to Israel. It does us all well to remember that this is a broken world and sin has made many things crooked. The Holy Spirit uses the crooks in our lot to convict us of our sin. Fourth, the crooked things in life may correct us for our sins. There are times when suffering serves as an instrument in God’s hand. This was the case for David as God used Saul as his scalpel to cut away from David all that was displeasing to him.
Most definitely God allows us to suffer to display his grace. This was the case with Paul, who was denied his petition after three persistent attempts. God’s answer to Paul and to all of us is: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).