“I know the plans that I have for you; plans to bring you peace and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I’m always taken aback when people leave Jesus and go their own way. I relate so strongly with what Peter said after many of Jesus’ followers had turned away, that it almost sucks the wind out of me to hear that someone has decided that they know more than their Creator as to what's best for their lives. In the case referred to, Jesus had just asked His disciples, “Are you going to leave me too?” and Peter replied, “Lord to whom would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life?"
What in the world do these people think they’ll find apart from Jesus when He alone has - well - the words of life? The main complaint that I hear goes something like, “What I read in the Bible just doesn’t comport with the reality that I experience. I don’t have peace. I don’t have joy. I don’t feel God’s love and concern for me.”
I understand how that would be troubling. But what if their decisions or conclusions are based on misinformation? What if they are leaving the fight too soon in the game? One of the benefits of being a mature believer, both in age and experience is that it’s given me a chance to see the fulfilment of God’s promises in my life. Right from infancy, we as humans are absolutely hardwired for stimulus / response living. And with our need / desire to make our lives run as smoothly as possible we have very little patience with results that take a long time to be realised.
Problem: God doesn’t work that way. You see, none of the people with whom I’ve worked, who have been struggling in their faith, have been brought THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death. In fact they are right in the middle of it. For that reason they can’t related to verses like, “Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand and at just the right time He will lift you up.”
1st Peter 5:7. Nor can they comprehend the first part of the verse that says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In the journey to follow Jesus, the call to abandon ship is always driven by pride. This pride is calling out to those who struggle, just as it did with Adam and Eve. Their pride is repeating the lie that God does not have their best interests at heart. They are made to believe that they have to take charge of their own lives.
Problem: That’s a lie. So what does it mean when:
. God says, “I have plans to give you peace and not to harm you,” yet your child dies?
. God says, “I have plans to give you hope,” and you lose your house because you can’t make the payments?
. God says, “I have plans to give you a future,” and you’re denied entrance to a training program for the only career that you’ve ever wanted?
Here is the mistake that I think most people make. Most people, who incidentally are not followers of Jesus, can only envision a good life as one that does not entail pain, suffering and difficulty. Most people spend a great deal of their time arranging their lives so as to avoid pain, suffering and difficulty. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact we have psychiatric labels for people who seem to enjoy pain and suffering. However, life as we know it entails tragedy and suffering. These things are a normal part of our existence. Because of that:
. Much of the suffering that we experience today comes to us from circumstances well beyond our control.
. Much of the suffering that we experience today comes to us as residue from a lifestyle that we rejected long ago.
. Much of the suffering that we experience today comes directly from our current dysfunctional behaviours but, and here’s the really weird part,
. Much of the time people blame God because their lives are in such a mess. Or they assume that because their prayers for rescue seem to go unheeded, God has long since left the building and no one is taking their messages to pass on to Him when or if He gets back. Tack on the conclusion that the only life worth living is a life that is free of pain and suffering and you have just given away all your power and hope.
Fact: God is not absent from our lives. God is involved in every single detail of our lives and to say that He isn’t involved in the misery that comes our way is to say that God is absent, at least for some people, from most of their lives. He is not absent. If you believe that He’s turned His back on you, it’s because you lack the maturity, and patience that it takes to graduate from His school. I’ve been there. I been through decades of suffering, and tragedy and pain. True, there have been times when I’ve questioned God’s way of doing things, but I can tell you this, everything, every single thing that God has promised me before and during the difficulties that have taken place have been fulfilled to overflowing. He has used every single setback for my good, His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. “Our God is an awesome God and He reigns from Heaven above, with wisdom power and love - Our God is an awesome God.”
Take His promises to heart. Believe them. Trust them. Count on them. “Cast all your anxieties on the Lord because He cares about you.” If you love God, if you are intent on serving Him, and if it doesn’t seem like He is bringing good out of your current difficulty, or even if it seems as though things are getting worse, just wait. It’s too soon. Watch and wait and you will see that leaving a healed relationship with Jesus would have been the absolute worst thing that you could have done.
So what has this got to do with my leg falling off? Well, that’s a bit of a problem. When I started this post there was supposed to be a tie-in to the betting pools that were going on when Paul McCartney’s ex was in “Dancing with the Stars.” People were taking odds on her prostheses flying off. For the life of me I can’t remember what the connection was supposed to have been. Good title though.