Sometimes I have found myself wanting to believe God wholeheartedly yet struggling with instances where I’ve felt God has slacked on His promises. Perhaps like me, you have had moments where God’s perceived absence speaks louder in your life then the scriptures promises. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one in an untimely manner or suffered an accident or physical injury that caused you to lose mobility and enjoyment of life. Maybe financial hardships, job loss, home loss, or unexpected tragedies have plagued you. Possibly you’ve been abused, mistreated or abandoned by those who were supposed to care for you. The fact is, for many of us, sometimes unimaginable pain and suffering will come into play that will likely prompt you to consider beliefs you’ve always held to be true.
Although most of us would like a relatively easy life, and many of us as Christians expect it– it likely won’t happen. In fact, if you consider the promises God has made us, one is that in this life you will have trouble. (John 16:33). Notice the wording doesn’t say you “may” have trouble. It doesn’t say trouble is a possibility and that some of us will face it. The bible is pretty clear– trouble is coming. I don’t think this type of trouble is referring to a breakup with a boyfriend, or a dead car battery in the morning. From the words that come after its pretty clear that God is talking about life altering hardships…. “But, Take heart! I have overcome the world!” It’s pretty clear that life’s minor inconveniences rarely require us to “take heart.”
To my particular life– the you will have trouble part gets a resounding amen! I can easily say– God you weren’t messin around on this one. In fact, I experienced life altering trouble in my life from the young age of five and sometimes it seems it’s been continuous since then. Again, I’m not referring to little annoyances, inconveniences, or difficulties. My dad was abusive and damaged me physically, mentally and spiritually in more ways then I could even come close to describing with words. The “take heart” part is more-so where I question, struggle and sometimes want to shout at God– “I can’t!”
Someone spoke something to me recently that altered my perspective and has been tossing around in my mind almost nonstop. I’ve sometimes had an issue with feeling like God didn’t “protect me.” Isn’t that one of His greatest promises? If you spend much time in Psalms the references are everywhere. God is referred to as our Rock, Fortress, Shield, and Shelter. These descriptions all sound pretty fabulous, but I can remember times when I longingly plead, begged and cried for God to intervene and reach His Mighty hand down to deliver me. He never did! So though I’m firmly grounded in my Salvation– I’ve always had that nagging feeling in my heart that somehow God must have missed or mistaken on those promises in my personal life.
A friend challenged me to see that God doesn’t always protect us “from” circumstances but He does protect His children “through” them. When I heard this it was like something clicked that I have wrestled with for many years. I certainly was not protected “from” many appaling events growing up in my house– but it’s quite obvious I was more then adequately protected “through” them. The biggest evidence in my life is the fact that I’m not insane in the head (in a very literal sense), I’m not on the street strung out on drugs, etc and I’m able to function and succeed in society despite some fairly crippling personal trauma. That is certainly protection “through” years of dysfunction at the hands of my father.
This brings to mind a statement that someone made years ago in my life that has always bothered me considering some of the suffering I have faced, “Nothing can touch you that hasn’t sifted through the hands of God first.” That has never quite been digested well for me! Why does God allow some of these tragic events happen to God fearing men/women and innocent Children? There’s obviously not an easy answer. If a theologian or pastor could come up with a satisfactory answer that would soothe the ache of our hearts sufficiently they would have a best selling book that would never come off the New York Times list. Christians are not exempt to incomprehensible amounts of suffering and pain. Those who have experienced the emotional, physical or mental unthinkable spend unbelievable amounts of time and energy grappling with the hard questions with God.
But, if you put it into perspective– it’s all about God’s glory. God uses our life, the really wonderful moments and the horribly tragic ones to orchestrate a story that glorifies Him. It isn’t about me! It isn’t about you! Our lives are meant to demonstrate His power, His grace, and His sufficiency regardless of the events He allows to come into them to “make His point.” This world is not our final destination, therefore our days here are intended to be used to paint the bigger picture that God is loving, merciful, and powerful. I’m beginning to learn what that means in my personal world although I’m certainly no expert. But, I’m challenging myself to see that the events that God has allowed to come into my life– although not desirable or “fair”– are meant to ultimately be redeemed for a higher purpose then my own wishes.
So what does protection “through” circumstances mean for me?
The waters will fiercely rise and thrash me about, but I will not drown! The fire will engulf and encamp me– the heat agonizing– but I will not burn! The winds will sway and swing me about, but I will not be blown away! The rain will pour and the hail will pound and bruise my flesh, but I will not be injured! The mountains ahead will be strenuous, steep, and at times seem impossible to conquer– but I will be given the strength to climb one step a time!
Oh, what a joyous ending John 16:33 has– Take heart….for I have overcome the world!