7 Reasons Why God Makes a “Crook” in a Christian’s Lot
“Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?” — Ecclesiastes 7:13
You may be wondering why God has allowed various afflictions in your life. In an introduction to eighteenth-century Scottish pastor and theologian Thomas Boston’s book The Crook in the Lot, J. I. Packer describes a “crook” this way:
But in Thomas Boston’s usage the crook is the crooked, that is the uncomfortable, discontenting aspects of a person’s life, the things that the Puritans called losses and crosses, and that we speak of as the stones in our shoe, the thorns in our bed, the burrs under the saddle, and the complaints we have to live with; and the lot is the providentially appointed path that God sets each of his servants to travel. (Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot: Living with That Thorn in Your Side, pp. 7-8)
It is helpful to consider God’s purposes in your adversities so that you can respond in a manner that brings glory to him. Here are seven reasons according to Boston why God makes a “crook” in a person’s lot, along with related Bible passages:
1. The trial of one's state, whether or not one is in the state of grace.
Even though we know from reading the book of Job that God allowed Satan to tempt Job to curse God through all the calamities Job faced, including the loss of his children, his wealth, and even his health, Job was not privy to that knowledge:
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:8-11; see also 1 Pet. 4:12)
2. The excitation to duty, weaning one from this world, and prompting him to look after the happiness of the other world.
The apostle Paul, once a persecutor of Christians, came to a place in his life where he knew it was better to be with the Lord when his work in this world was finished:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phil 1:21-24)
3. The conviction of sin.
Joseph’s brothers were convicted of the sin they thought had been hidden for years when coming before the governor of Egypt (Joseph, although unbeknownst to them) to buy grain because of the famine.
Then they [Joseph’s brothers] said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” (Gen. 42:21)
4. The correction, or punishment, for sin.
While God forgave the repentant David for his sins of adultery and murder, David still faced consequences for his actions.
“Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” (2 Sam. 12:9-10)
5. The prevention of sin.
Joseph had cause to be prideful when he was young because his father favored him, and dreams indicated that his brothers would bow down to him (Gen. 37:1-11). Although his years spent as a slave and a prisoner were great trials for Joseph (Gen. 39-40), he learned humility of spirit during that time, which would be needed for the work the Lord had for him to save God’s people from the famine to come. After Joseph asked Pharaoh’s chief cup bearer to speak to the ruler about his unjust imprisonment, he still remained in prison for two more years:
“In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit”….Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Gen.40:13-15; 23)
6. The discovery of latent corruption, whether in saints or sinners, for the due humiliation of sinners.
Even Moses, who spoke with God face-to-face, failed to obey perfectly. After Moses struck the rock at Meribah to bring forth water instead of speaking to it as God commanded him to do, God did not allow Moses or Aaron to enter the promised land (Num. 20:7-11):
And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Num. 20:12).
7. The exercise of grace in the children of God.
Paul had a crook in his lot that he asked the Lord to take away, but God refused in order to show the power of Christ in Paul’s weakness:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:7-9)
Christians do not need to fear the “crooks” God allows in their lives but can instead rest in God’s faithfulness. Boston reminds us to keep our focus on God’s grace, even in our suffering:
The truth is, the crook in the lot is the great engine of Providence for making men appear in their true colours, discovering both their ill and their good. And if the grace of God is in them, it will bring it out, and cause it to display itself. It so puts the Christian to his shifts, that however it makes him stagger for awhile, yet it will at length evidence both the reality and the strength of grace in him.
While we will not always know why God has made a crook in our lot, we can always trust that he is using it for good and his glory in the lives of his beloved children.
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