What should the Christian do when life takes an unexpected turn for the worse? It might be something major and life changing, or just a minor annoyance that trips up your carefully cultivated plans.
I tend to find that I’m ready with my spiritual armour and confident answers when anticipated challenges occur, or things I can explain, but something that always throws me is when I think I know what God is doing in a situation…and then I don’t.
The Bible tells us to expect frustration and suffering as a part of life. But it’s when I’ve been acting in faith, seeing specific prayers answered, and doors opening seemingly by God’s hand, and something spoils my plans out of the blue, then I’m really thrown by it.
My reaction is fear and worry, and (I’m ashamed to say) petulant anger against God.
What I thought was faith, was really trust that I knew and approved of where God was taking me, and confidence that his will and my plans aligned! I may have let him take charge of the driving, but I’m in the passenger seat studiously glued to my map and panicking at any departure from it. Yet when we follow Christ we agree to do just that! These moments reveal my heart, and God graciously uses them to teach me, but it’s still hard.
Lessons to Learn
Here are some of the things I remind myself of, when my life and plans hit a bump in the road. I hope they will encourage you too:
1. I am delighted in by God, I am his beloved child (Ephesians 5:1), and he enjoys blessing me. The way he treats me always reflects this, even when he allows me to go through hard times. I cannot be convinced of this and continue to hold the view that my plans have changed because God doesn’t care about me. It helps me to trust him even when I can’t see where help or relief will come from. It produces true faith. “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” Luke 12:27-8
2. I am not the centre of the universe or God’s plans in it! He is infinitely gracious and forgiving of my self-centred attitude to life, but he will not indulge it, his plans will be for his glory….and my good. God sees the big picture and how all the bumps and twists in the road fit in.
3. Satan does not like it when encouraged by God’s Spirit within us, we step out in faith. He will go to great lengths to distract or dissuade us, and he’s an excellent liar. When we face a seeming set back or disappointment, he is close by, ready to attack God’s character and motives (Remember his conversation with Eve?) He will suggest that God is unkind, untrustworthy, and neglectful. The Cross silences every such accusation of course, but we are more susceptible to his lies when we are hurt, disappointed or fearful, so we need to watch out for them and fight them with truth.
4. God desires humility and faith from his people – And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
5. I must not locate my trust in my circumstances, but in God who guides me. He is completely trustworthy.
6. Although I often believe there are things I just can’t live without, Jesus Christ is able to satisfy me fully in himself if I let him.
7. God’s ultimate plan is to make me more like Christ (which should be what I want too!), this plan is never in jeopardy, whatever happens, it may even be helped by times of confusion and difficulty.
8. Jesus is a faithful and sympathetic high priest in good and bad times, he invites us to come to him for help (Hebrews 4:14-16) He is a strong and peaceful refuge when life is rough.
Trust and rest may not come naturally to me when my plans change or life is stressful, but here is a great Psalm that I’m striving to imitate, as I trust God for his wisdom and provision in the small and the big things:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quietened my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and for evermore.
P.S If you want to think more about this subject I wrote about this from a different angle a year ago here