When things don’t go well, my first thought is always one of calibrating my expectations. Just how bad is it? Is it really bad? Or is it a “normal kind of bad” that maybe isn’t so bad after all? Like, when one of the boys would report from college that he got a C- on a test, I always ask, “How did everyone else in the class score?” If most of the class failed the test, the C- looks a whole lot better!
We need to calibrate life. For some reason, Christians too often seem to think that life should hand them a report card with straight-A grades. After all, they are now related to God, and if God really loves them as much as He claims to, everything should go well all the time, shouldn’t it?
There is really nothing in Scripture to support that viewpoint, yet it is prominent. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I have seen more than a few church people get angry at God and register their complaint with a sort of boycott of God and His people. They sense a grave injustice when some relative dies prematurely, an obviously well-intentioned prayer goes unanswered, or their illness continues unabated.
The fact is that this world is a mess. It is a place full of troubles and trials. The promise of God is not one of deliverance from and freedom from all issues of sadness and suffering. His promise is an ultimate deliverance on the other side, along with perspective and strength on this side – even a joy in the midst of trials.
PS 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.
PS 91:14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
And beyond preserving us and strengthening us in the midst of troubles, the Word actually teaches that there is a positive benefit from these painful times.
1PE 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
JAS 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Our lives are a journey. For most of us, that journey will have more of a sense of being long than being short. There will be joys and sorrows. In fact, it may fairly be said that the journey of our life is a treacherous journey. But to journey with the Lord is the best journey out there – that is for sure. There is nowhere else to turn… certainly nothing that can offer more than the most temporary divergence.
PS 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.