Two days ago I got some news that I wasn’t expecting, which ruined for the moment the plans I was making for myself. My wife, knowing my concern and sadness, sent me the following text while I was driving to work:
I’m sorry honey!!! God is in control of our lives even when others make mistakes. Keep your hope in God. He knows what is best and when it’s best. I love you.
The past few days I have been asked by a few friends if I could pinpoint one of the primary differences in my life today as compared to the life of 2 summers ago. My answer, in large part, is found in the spirit of that text.
God is in control. Hope in God. God knows what and when is best. Trust Him.
It is easy to believe God is in control when things are going your way. When you wake up to a bright, sunny day, when the coffee is hot and strong, when the car starts and has plenty of gas, when your boss gives you a promotion, when you are healthy, when your spouse is on your side and your kids are being obedient – in all these things we give thanks to God, as we ought.
But what about when there is a raging storm outside, when the coffee pot is broken, when the car breaks down on the side of the road, when you show up to work and are given a pink slip, when you get diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse cheats or leaves and when your kids drive you crazy – in all these things we tend to think God is absent or to blame.
I confess that I often lack the faith to believe God is in control of all things, that all things work according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). I confess that I often lack joy when I face trials of various kinds, which are designed for the purpose of increasing my faith (James 1:1-4). I confess that when I feel persecuted or tormented I far too often become self-absorbed rather than see this as an opportunity to bear witness to the glory and majesty of God (Luke 21:12-13).
In Mary Beth Chapman’s moving book about hope and struggle through the tragic death of their daughter she shares how they, as a family, had their faith deepened. While the pain was still very raw, she describes how her husband, Stephen, would go into his sound-proof recording studio in their home and scream at the top of his lungs,
You give and you take away! Blessed be the name of the Lord! You give and you take away! Blessed be the name of the Lord!
He was quoting Job 1:21. I had tears in my eyes as I read that for the first time, and again as I type them here. Why? Because it’s a faith I find so humble, trusting and vulnerable. It’s one I see so often lacking in myself, and sadly, in much of the church world.
It is a faith that gives God glory in the midst of the storm, even though, paradoxically, it names Him as the author of it. It’s the faith of Job. Though he lost everything dear to him, he refused to curse God. His ruminations over what happened to him neither led him to believe God was absent nor that He was to blame (in a pejorative sense) but rather, God is the author of all things and that He is good and trustworthy. If God is truly good, and if God is truly in control, then whatever befalls Job is re-imagined through that lens. This is ultimate trust. This is ultimate faith. “Yet though you slay me,” Job said, “I will trust in you” (Job 13:15). Job knows that life and death occur by God’s hand, according to the counsel of His will, and it’s all good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28).
And lest we think this God is archaic, one of some ancient, Old Testament understanding of God, Jesus reminds me that it is the God he knows, and trusts explicitly. Sent to earth to die a horrible death, he prayed that this cup – one predestined by His Father – be spared him. The pain he was about to endure he did not attribute to an absent God nor did he blame him, but instead prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” Like Job, Jesus prayed, “Yet though you slay me, I will trust in you.”
This trust resulted in an Easter miracle.
Granted, this God offends our modern sensibilities of what is “good” and “loving.” It isn’t one that appeases the masses, or tickles itching ears who long to have their best life now.
My wife remembers all too well the many times she was told by a godly woman that the pain her husband (me) was inflicting upon her were opportunities for her to repent, to run to God, to worship Him. For years she resisted this counsel, believing instead that if God were love He must be absent, or to blame, or did not love her very much at all to allow this suffering in her life. She couldn’t stand to hear from women who testified that if she would only trust God, she would one day be giving Him thanks for her afflictions (just like David does in Psalm 119, numerous times).
Today, however, she is doing just that. As her text above demonstrates, my wife has learned that the faith she thought she had was a fickle one, tossed and torn by the events of any given day. Today, by the grace and mercy of God, she stands as a Job-like example to me of one who strives to pray, “Though you slay me, God, I will trust you!”
Seeing such faith in action leads me, and I hope you as well, to pray, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).