Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, "How have we spoken against you?" You have said, "It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape." (Malachi 3:13-15; ESV)
Have you ever felt that it is useless to serve God? You may have never said such a thing (or maybe you have), but I think this is something that even the most committed believers have thought. We compare our lives to that of those who couldn't care less about God and it seems that they have it pretty good. They flaunt their unbelief and their immorality and get away with it, while those who trust God and seek to do the right thing seem to have no end of trouble.
First, it is presumptuous to think we know for certain what the cause of someone's circumstances are. Unless God clearly reveals the reason for something all we have to go on is our best guesses. It's easy to create false impressions based on how we view circumstances. What constitutes good or bad anyway? Hardships are some of our best teachers, while successes, though they may be enjoyable for a time, can set us up for great trouble down the road.
Maybe this isn't enough to relieve your grief. It is easy, when we are going through hard times to look at those who are apparently doing well, and get discouraged. Why go through the bother of hardship when it appears that it makes no difference, except perhaps a negative difference? But what does a person's current situation have to do with making an accurate assessment of his or her life? Circumstances so quickly change. Nothing in this age is permanent. One never knows what fortune or trouble is waiting for us around the corner.
But what about when our hard times go on and on? We need to grasp the bigger picture. The more we understand that life is more than what happens to us personally moment by moment, the more we will be free from the effects of daily difficulties.
Life is an investment. Based on what we put into it, so we will eventually derive benefits. The current economic situation doesn't help us to grasp this. The credit crisis gripping much of the world today demands short-term solutions with little regard for their long-term effects. God's perspective is the exact opposite. From his perspective, it is worth it for us to go through whatever pain is necessary now, so that we can enjoy a wonderful future forever. As we read in the New Covenant writings, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17; ESV).
God responds to those who question the value of serving him by saying, "Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him" (Malachi 3:18; ESV) The way things are now are not the way they will always be. Just wait.