When our plans have gone south and life is not even close to what we hoped it would be then of this you can be absolutely sure…right there and then we are living by faith. This is good! I wonder if that is where you find yourself today. Of course it’s true that our calling as believers is to be living by faith every day of our lives but if you were prepared to be honest, do you? No! I didn’t think so. Me neither! If truth be told most Christians are bad passengers. We much prefer to be driving and steering. We like to plot our course and have control over outcomes, and the thought of surrendering all of that gives us a dose of the chills. I have to confess I’m not the best at relaxing when my wife is driving and nor am I all that confident as God takes the wheel.
Just recently we went through a rather confusing experience as a family. It’s still hard to make sense of it now and I don’t think it will ever fit neatly into a box. It’s a bit of a long story with all sorts of details I don’t need to bore you with but the long and short is this; we had been in an adoption process for just over two years and it hasn’t worked out. I can’t tell you how sure we felt about this particular child we had been matched with. Sometimes guidance is hard to come by but this was not like that. We were completely persuaded that this was the Lord’s plan for our home and His will for our lives. Well…it wasn’t! He wasn’t! It seemed a nailed on certainty but instead Sarah is unexpectedly expecting (which is both beyond miraculous and completely wonderful) and we have had to let go of this other little child. I appreciate that in comparison to other weights that some of you are carrying this will hardly seem worth spilling ink over. Many of you are longing for children. There is illness and loss and unending loneliness, and for some of you there is complete perplexity as to where God is steering your car. Much the same as Asaph in the opening movements of Psalm 73, we know God is good but we’re maybe just not feeling / seeing it like we used to. The view is not what we thought it would be.
That all of this is the case can I give to you three personal reflections that may be a help at some stage in your journey.
1. Confusion is normal. So is pain. If you are sensing either of these realities right now then welcome to the Kingdom of God and be glad that you are on the same road as Abraham and Joseph and Daniel and Nehemiah. The first few pages of our Bibles are perfect and so are the last few but we are living in the middle and the middle is messy. Just last week one of our members went to glory after a lifetime of suffering. I’ve rarely witnessed pain like what Jean had to live with for decades. To her it was awful. To us it was confusing. This is what life for the believer can look like in this world. If anyone tells you otherwise and puts your trials down to a lack of faith then take them to the side and tell them…’no no, this isn’t a lack of faith. This is living by faith.’ This is it. When life is full of experiences that we would rather be without and days when we wonder what on earth is going on, we are being blessed with an opportunity to trust our sovereign Father and entrust to Him all of our days. 10,000 Christians have been there before you and many are there with you as we speak.
2. Instantaneously quoting texts to someone who is suffering might not be the best pastoral course to take. I know that sounds like I’ve just let go of my theological moorings but hear me out for a second. God has made us with tear ducts…and He did that for a reason. He’s also given us the capacity to experience sadness inside. Why is it that we feel unnerved by Christians who mourn? And why do we get a fit of the Biblical tourette’s when suffering / confusion has arrived? Is this the way we’re meant to use Scripture? Is there not a place in the first instance for an arm on the shoulder? Or some empathy…and then a text? I’ve heard Christians going to women who have just experienced the blow of a miscarriage and before they know what they’re doing they’ve quoted Romans 8:28 to them. In most instances I’m certain that these dear ladies are aware of Romans 8. They know that it’s there and they believe it with all their might. What they need in that moment is some space for their hearts to catch up with their heads. Again, to come back to Psalm 73 for a second, the fact that God has given us verses that describe a gap between Asaph’s beliefs and feelings is a sure fire sign He knows we will get to that point too.
3. Having said all of of that, is it not a great thing to you that your Father is sovereign? Have you lost sight of that? Do you not experience the spiritual rewards that are there for you in that truth anymore, and not least when you are right in the mixer of life. Your Heavenly Father sees the end from the beginning. He know what He’s doing and He knows where He’s going. He is steering the whole of the universe and everything is on schedule. We’re just back from our holidays and the kids were asking if we were close to arrival about 5 minutes after departure. They have no concept of time and sometimes, as Christians, we appear to be the same. Put it this way; if the Christian journey seems odd and long and full of inexplicable twists that’s probably because we didn’t reckon on a God with His own clock. A God who views 1000 years as a day. Or a God who steers. A God who leads His sheep like a shepherd. To somehow believe that we timetable and steer and lead is to de-god God and to live as a virtual athiest. We need to trust Him and be sure that He has this.
As i come back to work and back to life after the summer break I want to see my Lord as so great and glorious and so trustworthy that, even in the darkness, I will life life by faith.