siftingIf you’re reading this, then I’m guessing something nasty has hit the fan at some point in your life. Maybe even right now. How do we handle those times as believers?

Look, God tells us over and over again in scripture that it’s going to happen. “In this world you will have trouble..” (John 16:33) It’s not a surprise to Him, and it shouldn’t really be a surprise to us. But every time it happens, I’m like, WTH?!?!

And that’s what I’m ruminating on right now. Literally. What does “Hell” have to do with suffering? Specifically, I’m talking about the Job-like and Peter-like suffering. The “I can’t take one more bad thing happening” suffering, and then THREE more bad things happen. How do you survive that? What’s going on?

It seems to me that Satan sometimes gets special dispensation from God to afflict us in more-than-normal ways. Everyone on this side of eternity is behind enemy lines — Satan is the ruler of this world (for now, sucker). So there’s an expected amount of seriously-not-cool life experiences that are going to come our ways. But then sometimes there are those hit-the-fan, WTH times. They’re bigger and badder than the others (yes, I just said badder).

And in those times, it could be that God gave Satan permission to test us or sift us. He did that with Job–Satan told God that if He stopped protecting Job and “stretch[ed] out [His] hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:11) So God let Satan strike everything Job had. And what was revealed? Job loved God more than he loved his things, his wealth, his children, or anything else God gave him. And Job still trusted God, though He “slayed” him. (Job 13:15)

We can infer that God did something similar with Peter. Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He told Peter “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31) Peter was like, “Oh yeah, bring it! I’m ready to go to prison and even to my death for you, Jesus!” And Jesus was like, “Um…sorry to break it to you, but you’ll have that opportunity this very night. And you won’t do it.” (Luke 22:34) Instead, when Peter got “sifted,” he betrayed his friend Jesus at His time of greatest need. This was hands-down the worst moment in Peter’s life.

Why does God allow us to be sifted? Well, I suspect it’s in part because something needs to be sifted out of us.

I mean, think about it. The Peter who betrayed Jesus on Good Friday was not the Peter — the Rock — on whom Jesus built the church after His resurrection. So how did he get transformed from braggadocious Peter to Rock-solid Peter? Sifting. It’s like Jesus had to sift the “Simon” out of the “Peter.”

And how do we get transformed from the people we are to the people He called us to be? Sifting.

So, if the sh–tuff is hitting the fan in your life, you might be going through the sifting process. This trial may be the very tool God is using to expedite your spiritual growth so you can live out your greatest purposes and fulfill the good works God prepared for you to do from before time. (Eph. 2:10)

Satan might think he has the upper hand, but don’t buy it for a minute. You, dear one, are from God and have overcome Satan and all these horrible circumstances, because the God who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)