Disappointments Are God’s Appointments
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
The vast majority of us avoid suffering at all costs. We spend lots of money on electronics,, entertainment, and events that make us feel comfortable, and we’ve developed the expectation that life “should” be fun, easy, and pleasant. We have more “conveniences” than any other time in history, yet we complain more than the people who lived before us.
From time to time, the God of love and truth steps into our misplaced expectations and shakes us up. He doesn’t do this to be mean- just the opposite. He knows that the best way for us to learn life’s most important lessons is through suffering. Sometimes, God wants to get our attention to redirect us.Sometimes, He needs to discipline us so that we can stop self-destructive behavior. Sometimes, He wants to display our courageous faith to others around us, and suffering let’s them see into our hearts. No matter what the cause, God always wants to teach us to depend on Him, and difficulties have a marvelous way of directing the eyes of our hearts to God’s love, truth, wisdom, and power.
If we develop spiritual eyes to see that God is doing something rich and wonderful in the midst of our suffering, we won’t avoid it. Instead, we’ll say with King David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted”- not because it was fun, but because suffering is one of the best ways to learn life’s most important lessons.
Afflictions are but the shadows of God’s wings.
The question that comes to mind is whether we truly believe Romans 8:28.
“And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
If we truly believe this verse then it moves us to look for the good in every situation, even in the most devastating and painful ones. It’s easy to see the good when things are going well, although sometimes we take good things for granted as though they aren’t the favor of God. Someone said well that we don’t miss the water until the well runs dry. What adversity and suffering reveal is our dependence upon God and that is always a good thing. The more we learn to depend on God, to trust in His love and believe in His promises the better life becomes. Most of our stress, worry, and fears come from the feeling of being out of control of our environment. We worry over those things that we have little or no ability to affect. We stress over things that are beyond the scope of our knowledge and abilities. We are afraid of the unknown for we have no basis to process what we don’t know.
Those who don’t know Christ are right in their worry, stress, and fears for they have no rock, no foundation upon which to rest. But those who profess Christ really have no cause to entertain such things. Let me be clear to say that it’s not that these things don’t try to enter and control our thoughts. The devil will see to it that we are tempted to stress, worry, and fear. It is in those times that our faith is defined and rises up to confront such things.
If we truly believe Romans 8:28 then we begin to seek God’s plan and purpose for our lives. I think sometimes God upsets our world to bring our attention to His purposes for our lives. Yesterday I found myself in a conversation with a checkout clerk. Her question to me was, As a pastor, what do you think about all that’s going on in the world right now? Is it God punishing us or preparing us for the Coming of the Lord? These, my Christian friend are the questions the world at large is asking. Why are these things happening? Whose to blame? And the world’s response is to create more division, conflict and unrest. As I pondered how to respond, I felt the Lord would have me to respond with these words, “No, I do not believe that God is punishing us yet for our sins. Those who die in their sins will be punished one day. The Bible teaches that “where sin abounds, grace so much more.” That we are in the last days has been true since Christ ascended but we don’t know the day or the hour when He shall come again. The root of all evil is the devil but is carried out by people and every choice people make affects not only themselves but others as well. However, the most important question is, ‘God, how can You use these things and me to share the good news of salvation with those who don’t know You.’”
Many have heard me say that this is a defining moment in the life of the church. As the world around us changes at the speed of light, I believe God is allowing us to be shaken out of our mold and rut because He has a greater purpose for us. The Bible says that there will come a shaking and all that is not rooted in Christ will vanish. As Christians, I believe this is the moment of refocusing on our mission and purpose of making disciples. I think we have allowed ourselves to become engrossed in so many good things at the expense of doing excellent ministry. So God in His love and grace is allowing us to be in a pandemic world so that we might see and engage in what is important and leave behind those things which occupied our time and wasted our resources. I believe the future church will be lean and agile so that it will be able to access and adapt ministry to the actual needs of the world rather than the perceived needs that we feel comfortable addressing. We have a lot of challenges before us but we rely on Romans 8:28 to carry the day.
As individuals, we have become aware of the brevity of life, the value of personal connections, and to appreciate each day as a gift from God. I pray that in whatever place, situation, or circumstance we find ourselves that we will look for the goodness and the graciousness of God. I pray that every adversity, difficulty or suffering will be utilized to cause us to turn more to God and draw on His sufficient grace and strength. I pray that we will willing release what we cannot hold to attain what we cannot lose. And I pray that every person, every church will come through these times of great suffering with greater faith, greater trust and greater hope in the One who holds us in His hands and is molding us into His vessels for His use.
O God, help us see that in everything, both good and difficult, that You are with us and that everything the You allow to touch our lives has good for us.
Dr. John Thompson