During my daily commute, I’ve had some deep thoughts. Thoughts that beg for expression and reflection. Ordinarily these would be relegated to mumbling to my cousin Nikki in between bites of food, but since I got such a good response from my last column, I figured – hey, why not.
So here they are, in all their glory:
Deep thought #1: God is good. (With me so far? Okay, good.)
Deep thought #2: God is in control. Of everything. (Still there? Read on.)
Deep thought #3: If God’s in control, then He can do whatever He wants to– and there ain’t nothing you or I or anyone else can do about it.
Now I don’t know about you, but that one scares me. Because I know that our God is an incredibly creative God, and He can think up some pretty wild stuff. Even if neither His Word nor His natural creation testified to that end, I would know this to be true simply because I know that I’m pretty creative, and I was created in His image.
Unlike me, though, God’s creativity is never restricted by deadlines, budgets, logistical issues or emotional doldrums. He never gets tired of enjoying His creation of humanity. And the only way I can wrap my mind around that concept is to imagine God as an 8-year old, sitting in the bathtub and playing with a veritable battalion of human action figures that He made Himself. (Uhh, not that I ever did that or anything.) He’s just splashing away, twisting, dropping, flipping, contorting, and generally running his figures through a gauntlet of stunt moves that would make Jackie Chan wince in pain at the thought.
The main difference, though, between the creativity of (okay, I’ll admit it) me at that age and God is that He is creatively judicious. In other words, God not only does it with our best interests at heart, but ultimately to bring glory back Himself. And everything that will happen to each of us in this short span of time we call ‘life’ will ultimately testify to His victorious plans, whether or not we can see those plans at the time.
Several weeks ago, I endured a crushing trial that shook my faith in God’s provision for my life. I had an incredible business opportunity slip through my fingertips because of a clerical issue that, while egregious in its severity, was nevertheless not my fault. Not even a little bit my fault. It felt like my very destiny was being robbed from me. And you know what? I was pissed. I was mad at the person whose wrongdoing caused me to miss out, but I was also angry at God. It felt like He led me down a dead end just so I could ram my head against the wall.
I prayed that night, it sounded a lot like this:
Me: “Okay, God – do you know what you’re doing?! You’re supposed to be providing for my needs, not creating more of them!”
Me: “I mean, really! If you didn’t want me to be in that situation, why did you throw it in my lap like that? I wish you would just make up your mind, because I’m tired of this garbage.”
GOD: “Are you done complaining yet?”
Me: “No, I’m not! … uhhhmmm…. My feet hurt. Okay, yeah, I’m done.”
GOD (rolling eyes): “Good. I’ve got four words for you – ‘but wait, there’s more.’”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I had no idea what He was talking about. Great, I’m thinking. I’m sitting here pouring out my heart and He’s tossing out infomercial clichés for consolation. If my life was a commercial, then maybe that would help. And then, during a later conversation with my girlfriend Holly, it started to hit me. I wondered what if my life actually was a commercial… but for God? That would explain a LOT.
Have any of you actually watched one of those infomercials that come on at like 2am on Friday nights? They’re actually pretty entertaining, because they’re always going to these ridiculous lengths to prove how good their particular product is. If it’s knives, they won’t simply cut an old grapefruit – they’ll cut through an old boot. If it’s a vacuum cleaner, they won’t just spill a little dirt on the floor. No, they’ll dump a bucket of marbles on the floor, cover it with it flour, and then pour dirt on top of THAT. They go to such lengths so that when they vacuum it all up, nobody in the audience can say, “Yeah, well my vacuum cleaner can do that.”
That’s just the way God is. Yes, He is going to meet my needs – but it will be in His timing. Which means, in this case, He ain’t gonna do it the easy way. He wants to go all out to prove what a truly awesome God He is. It’s His way of exclaiming to an astounded studio audience, “No credit, no full-time job, no degree? No problem.” And every time He pulls off another miraculous feat of divinity, He delights in being able to say to our slack-jawed faces, “but wait, there’s more.”
As Christians, our lives have been put on display for the world to see. And He, in His divine construction shop of eternal destiny, has been masterfully creating scenarios, situations and trials that bear His unmistakable signature. Then he sets us up and runs us through them, so that when our lives are over, if someone were to objectively examine the facts in detail, they would find themselves bereft of any response except to say, “There’s only one conclusion, friend. God is good.”
The sad thing is, we don’t always recognize His redemptive work in the middle of all the drama. That’s why the Apostle Paul, in the beginning of his letter to the church at Philippi, had to remind them of this.
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” – Phil. 1:12,19 (NIV)
Two things about this passage strike me. First, Paul’s trials weren’t just misunderstandings. They were major, life threatening trials. The man endured more concussions than Steve Young, and more character assassinations than Ray Lewis at a Bob Jones University gala.
Secondly, Paul was incarcerated at the time he wrote this. He wasn’t sitting at home, reflecting on past events while sipping on a mocha. He was on lockdown. He probably hadn’t had a good night’s rest in ages, yet he still had enough inner peace to see God’s hand in everything.
And now, in the grand tradition of columnists comparing themselves to legendary figures, I feel I’m in a similar place. More importantly, I know I’m not the only one. Many of us are going through these burdensome, weighty, life-shaking trials. We find ourselves “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
(I’m gonna let Paul preach it from here.)
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Cor. 4:16-18
God knows what He’s doing – and He’s got more in store. The only question that remains is whether or not we’ll be patient enough to wait and find out what it is. Most of the time, I’m not. I flip out, and cry out to Him in desperation. Yet every time I do, I hear the voice of God amidst all the drama, echoing the words of many a television voiceover:
“But wait, there’s more.”