While listening to our local Christian radio station I heard some testimonies of things God had been doing in the lives of a few of the listeners who had called in. One theme seemed to run through each call. In each case they would face a trial, wallow through it, and recieve some kind of blessing: a dream job, extra money, a new car, some kind of recognition. All this got me to thinking, do we believe God works simply to make our lives better here and now?
I found myself wanting to ask, what did God do in and through these listeners during the hard season, or was he simply laying the groundwork for some worldly blessing? Is the greatest end of God’s work in your life your own comfort and temporal prosperity? I’m not saying that God doesn’t want you to have things, or enjoy things. In fact, I believe he wants us to move beyond happiness to unspeakable, indescribable joy. Yet I believe he wants us to realize that joy through holiness, not just by getting what we want.
When we read in Romans 8:28 that “God works in all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose,” the tendency is to assert that God will use everything that happens to occur in our lives to turn out favorably for those he loves. This is a horrible misuse if this verse. If that is the case then God must not have loved Peter, John, Paul, or James much at all since they were all tortured and martyred in the name of Christ. It is the same error we fall into with 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” The problem is that we totally neglect the verse before that – the context: “When I shut up the heavens so there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…” God causes hardship and suffering; and he does so to get our attention, pull our head out of the world and put our focus and deisre back on him…where it belongs.
It is great to hear about God’s tiny graces to you – he is so patient with us. It is infinitely better to hear about God’s great graces that come to us in the heat of the furnace and in the thrashing of the waves. The real joy is in God’s faithful presence, power, and work in and through our lives in the midst of our own insufficiency and suffering. It is in our suffering that we most closely experience and share intimacy with Christ (Philippians 3:10). Seek him in those times…not just in the hopes of a silver lining or shallow temporal blessing. Desire the giver of all good things Himself over what he can give you.