One of the many reasons we resent trials and suffering is because it upsets our equilibrium. We feel rudly thrust from our well-ordered, secure lives into uncertainty where we feel less able to stand on our own two feet.
We might claim our security rests in God, but the reality is we spend much of our time [consciously or unconsciously] dwelling in the security of our jobs, our finances, our luck, friends and family and our knack for making good things happen.
But when the unexpected occurs and we are suddenly thrust out of our complacency, we find ourselves desperately trying to latch onto something, or someone, who can alleviate our suffering and return us to our precious equilibrium.
The truth is, we were never really independent and self sufficient in the first place. Any thought that we are is pure fantasy. We are every bit as dependent upon God in the good and tranquil times as we are in the difficult; we just don’t realize it.
When suffering is no where to be found, when the stars are aligned and all is right in our universe, we believe ourselves independent; we are secure, and our felt need for God is muted.
Think about how often we are conscious of our breathing: we take for granted there will always be plenty of oxygen for us to take in and our lungs will function as they ought without expending any special effort. But introduce just the tiniest disruption into the breathing process and watch how quickly we go from tranquility to terror. Those afflicted with asthma know what this feels like.
Our times are in His hands. But far too often, I live, operate and process as though I am merely sharing the reins to my life with Him. And sadly, I don’t even do as much as share, but rather I grab the steering wheel and relegate Him to the backseat. I might toss out the occasional question here and there when I need a course correction, but for the most part, as long as the road ahead is well lit and paved, I’ve got things well in hand.
I’ll call You if I need You.
When those difficult times come and I throw myself at His feet seeking deliverance, strength and wisdom, it often takes a while to recalibrate my equilibrium. I first have to deal with and confess the reality that, for the most part, I go through my days distracted and charmed by other, lesser gods. So those first few steps of complete and total dependence always feels a bit foreign to me.
The reality is, if it is not God who is at the center of our affections, then we are placing our confidence in something else, someone else. No matter how good and secure we believe our situation, no matter how pleased we are with ourselves and our ability to successfully navigate this life, we each have our secret stash of idols we often fall back on when life feels less certain. One of the real blessings of difficult times can be that these idols are exposed for the frauds they’ve always been.
Soren Kierkegaard says spiritual pride is the illusion we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God. I don’t question that. I’ve seen that truth played out in my life and in the lives of friends and loved ones again and again. I’ve preached that to others. I’ve staked my life, my eternity on that reality. But I have to come to grips that no matter how dependent I believe myself to be upon God, no matter how grateful I am for the many blessings in my life, there remains in me fragments that seek glory and security independent from Him.
I am left then with a choice: do I embrace the truth that every trial, every difficulty and every obstacle was allowed by God to discipline me as would a loving father and is meant for my ultimate good (Hebrews 12:3-11), or do I regard it as an unwelcome interruption into my otherwise orderly, comfortable life?
Do I really believe my times are in His hands?
There’s a verse in one of the Psalms, and this is [very] roughly paraphrased, where God says, “you come to me when you are afraid and need deliverance. That is all well and good; I am your refuge in the storm. But if you will seek me just as diligently when times are good then you will have the opportunity to sit at my feet and learn from me.”
There is such sweetness, such richness in the knowledge that our Father longs to have us just sit with Him, and receive His blessings, His wisdom, strength and goodness.
I am so grateful that He is my refuge in the storm, my comforter the times I am overwhelmed. But I long to grow in the first-hand knowledge of Him as teacher, friend and my true Father.
That’s the invitation to all of us: in His presence there is joy everlasting!