Friends Magazine Hong Kong
By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
August 2011 Edition
Unpaid bills. Failed relationship. Unsuccessful project. Impossible employer. Deteriorating health. Rebellious child. Cheating spouse.
When life hits you hard, don’t let it knock you down.
John Piper worded it for us clearly, “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
Life, in other words, is essentially good lumped with the bad – with the bad intended only to bring out the good in us. Hence, when the bad turns up and comes along, we should remember that everything happens for a reason. It is in our dire times that we must purposefully choose to trust steadily in the faithfulness of the God who promised that He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
In the midst of life’s difficulties, we are not left alone and helpless. God has a standing invitation to us: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:27-30, MSG).
It is most comforting that at our most trying times, the preceding Bible verses point us to the fact that (1) God cares, (2) God is available to us, and (3) God is in control.
God cares. We all know this in good times, of course. It is when we hit rock bottom that we question if He really does.
This is why we have the likes of Joseph, Daniel, his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the Bible. Because these giants of faith trusted in God and in His goodness even in the midst of their lives’ worst possible situation.
Joseph, though he kept his integrity and feared the Living God, was imprisoned for a charge he did not commit. Yet he went with it, his faith unfazed by the unjustness of his situation. God saw him through the process, granted him favor in the eyes of men, and made him the second most powerful person in the kingdom.
Daniel, for keeping his loyalty to God, was thrown in the hungry lions’ den. Yet nothing was said about him questioning God and His reasons for allowing him to go through what he went through. It was only when God revealed the mystery of His wisdom that He made known: His higher purpose was for the king himself to acknowledge no other God, but the God of Daniel alone.
Shadrach,Meshach, and Abednego, in the same fashion, went through the furnace heated seven times over for not bowing down to idols. Yet they did not go through it just by themselves, because God went with them.
Let me underscore, these people were not spared from prison, dungeon, and furnace; they went through every possible hardship and fear and pain, but it didn’t mean God abandoned them or didn’t care for them. On the contrary, when all the pieces of the puzzle ultimately fell into place, it was revealed how God went with them each and every single step of their difficult process.
This brings me to my next point: God is available to us.
We can always turn to God for help; He has given us the invitation to come (Matthew 11:27). He has also called on us to call unto Him. “Let your cry come to me, and I will give you an answer, and let you see great things and secret things of which you had no knowledge” (Jeremiah 33:3, Bible in Basic English). The problem, really, is that we take our independence too seriously that we think we can live separately from God.
Clearly, we go through life alone because we choose to, not because we have to. The thing is, we can’t tackle life even with our best and greatest strength, wisdom, money, power, influence, and fame all built into one tall “Tower of Babel.” Apart from the LORD, even our best efforts will come tumbling down – sooner than later.
Ultimately, therefore, God is in control.
To the believer whose life fully depends on God, this is a fountain of joy and assurance. But to him who wrestles against the LORD, this is a fair warning.
God has sworn in His Word, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10).
Only a fool will work against the will of this God who “… stretches out His heavens over empty space. He hangs the earth on nothing whatsoever” (Job 26:7).
When life hits you hard, draw near to God, call unto Him, and trust His plans and purposes. Remember that He cares for you, He is available to you, and He is in control of your situation.