I often get frustrated and discouraged when things happen in my life and in the lives of those close to me and I can’t see how they can fit into God’s good plans for us. It’s something I’m wrestling with at the moment.
But let me retrace my steps a little! What reasons do I have for believing that God is good in the first place?
Are there biblical foundations for an expectation that life isn’t just meaningless chaos, and that everything that happens is carefully woven into God’s sovereign plans?
Yes and yes!
A Good God with Good Plans
Here are some of the verses on which I’m basing my confidence:
You are good, and what you do is good. Psalm 119:68
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. Psalm 25:10
6 And [the Lord] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Exodus 34:6
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. . .
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:28-9 & 32
Confused by the Unfinished
It’s a normal human thing to try and make sense of the world, especially when it seems shattered by so much suffering. And trying to pinpoint what God is doing in and through various events is a common activity that Christians engage in. Yet I think that the Bible sounds words of caution in regard to how we do this:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” Romans 11:33-4
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand… Job 38:1-4
The problem with trying to interpret everything that happens into ‘what God is doing’ is that we cannot possibly comprehend it with our finite and human minds! His plans are God-sized and God-centred, intricate, and as yet, unfinished (at least from our vantage point!)
In my spare time I’m a portrait painter. I don’t usually let anyone see a portrait until it’s nearly finished, because the early stages of a successful painting usually look like absolute chaos! It seems that I’ve made weird choices about colour, there are marks all over it that don’t look anything like a face, and so on! Yet each of these early stages is vital. I need an underpainting that will underpin the later layers and set the tone for the whole piece. I make marks that are like artist’s shorthand. I know what they signify but at this point the casual onlooker might be dismayed by my seeming lack of anatomical knowledge! Of course it’s all resolved in the finished piece.
How much more so with God?
Anticipating His Masterpiece
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t think about what God might be doing in and through us, this can be a fruitful exercise. But we need to be able to reserve judgement and not panic when we face the unexpected or can’t make sense of things. God does not reveal his complex plans to us, but he has given us a clear explanation of his character, his love for us, and where everything is finally headed – enough to keep us trusting him amidst the unfinished.
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children . . . heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:16-18
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-9
Let’s persevere with this encouragement.