It is entirely reasonable to expect that life will go well for us. We live in a wonderful country, one of the best in the world, where we are free to come and go providing we respect the law. We certainly do hope that everything will turn out well for us.
We tell our young people to dream big and have a big plan for their future. Live with confidence, and God will bless you. If only it were that easy and straightforward. But I think you know what I’m going to say next. Life has a habit of changing, unravelling at the moment we least expect it. Our plans can crumble within minutes when bad or unexpected news comes. And different people have different reactions.
Respected author and counsellor Larry Crabb has said something so profound I want to quote him;
“We have a hard time understanding the nature of our journey through this life. We still think that things should go well and that we should feel good”.
How true is this? Each of us goes through difficult times. St Augustine once said,
“God only had one Son on this earth without sin, but none without suffering”.
What happens when our robust health turns sour, or we can no longer look after ourselves? Or dementia starts to take over. I think there are two ways to react. One is to trust the eternal God even though we do not understand what’s going on or allow ourselves to become full of resentment toward people, life and God.
I know a few people who have chosen this second option. We may struggle to understand some events in life, but surely it is a time to seek help. In the National Gallery in London, there is a painting that depicts Christ hanging on the cross in dense darkness. But as you continue to look at it, gradually you will see another form, God’s hands supporting Jesus. God’s face appears full of compassion. The presence and sympathy of God with His suffering Son.
Rev Howard Edington is a retired Presbyterian church leader, widely respected and loved by many in Florida’s First Presbyterian church. One night his 22-year-old son John was driving in wet weather, his car lost control and slammed into a tree. He was killed. At 3 am, Howard received a dreaded phone call which impacted his life, and that of his wife forever. He thought he was going mad with grief and rage at what happened that early morning.
Why should it happen to a good church-going family? The next Sunday he spoke to his congregation.
“I have been to the bottom! I have been to where few of you ever have been or will be. I have been to where life hurts the most and cuts the deepest and hits the hardest. Therefore, listen to me when I tell you that faith in Jesus Christ is not some sideline pursuit, some pleasant diversion, some enjoyable hobby in your life. It’s not something you give yourself to when it’s convenient or when it helps you along your career track or when you want to appear respectable. It’s not just a part of your life. You’ve got to see it as the centre of your life, the foundation of your whole existence. Nothing else in your life really matters, nothing else in your life will last. When the police chaplain says, “Your son did not survive,” I can tell you that you find out right then that the only thing you have left is faith. But because of my faith, I can say to you, “I feel the bottom, and it is sound.”
Faith lasts. What remarkable courage and strength.
John the Baptist was a remarkable character of the New Testament. God had a clear plan for him; to prepare the way of Jesus the Messiah. He was brave, honest, unorthodox, and radical. He wore animal skins, ate locusts with honey, and baptised in the River Jordan. But he was imprisoned and beheaded. What a shocking end for a man whose life was cut short.
But Jesus said in Matthew 11 says he was the greatest among men. It doesn’t make any sense.
But as Larry Crabb says, “When dreams are shattered, when faith is shaken, when there’s no easy way out, God is doing his most important work.”
Proverbs 20:24 reminds us, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his way?” Can you believe that, in the long run, God’s plans will succeed? He is sovereign and knows best for you, even when your plans crumble all around you, and life seems very messy.
Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”.
God may have something new and unexpected for you. How unfortunate it would be if you close your mind to that option. It may take a long time, so be patient. God’s timing is different to yours remember. God meets us in the unknown or the unexpected. Trust in the Lord today with all your heart and mind and will. He has good plans for your life. He may lead you into something that you could never have imagined.