My family and I have been living through a somewhat extended time of fairly significant uncertainty. The details are unimportant, but they have caused us on more than one occasion to ask ‘What is God teaching us in all this?’
Although there are no doubt many things we have been learning, the key ones have been around the area of trusting God and maintaining perspective.
In twenty odd years of following Christ, I still somehow tend to think that my plans are the best ones. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times experience and hindsight teach me the opposite, or how clearly God’s Word lays out the principle, I desperately cling to my own little sense of sovereignty and wisdom.
As the book of Proverbs puts it:
“Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail.”
(Prov 19:21, HCSB, cf. 16:9)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration.”
(Is 55:8, HCSB)
And more positively in Romans:
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purposes.”
(Rom 8:28, HCSB)
And this last verse, in addition to offering us hope – that He is working for our good – also offers us perspective – that He is working for His purposes. And so often His purposes involve us learning lessons, and facing situations that we might never have chosen ourselves. Because He is more interested in our Holiness and our conformity to Christ than in our Comfort (cf. 1 John 3:2, Heb 12:4-11, etc.)
There are things which are of “first importance” (1 Cor 15:3) and my circumstances are not them! But what God has done in Christ changes everything – as we celebrate on this Easter Day above all days – “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15:19)
Although, as a family, we have greater clarity now about many things, we still have some fairly fundamental unknowns – like precisely where we’re going to be living in the next three weeks! But even here, God has been showing us mercy, revealing little elements of the plan stage by stage. Showing us tokens of His grace through the kindness of His people.
And we have been struck again by the wisdom of His timing. Our own move, which we expected might happen as much as a year ago, has been delayed in a way which has brought some healing (for us), some help (for another) and I suspect some blessing for the local Church. Most, if not all, of these might have been lost had we followed our own plan.
And even at this point, with the uncertainty ahead, I am struck by the kindness of God in positioning these lessons around the great celebration of Easter. What an amazing reminder of God’s perfect (though often surprising) plans, His detailed (though often delayed) timing, and most of all of His enormous and costly love.
And when we allow the great hope of Easter (He is risen! Death is defeated! Sin is dealt with!) to anchor our souls, then it puts all our other momentary and light troubles (2 Cor 4:17) into perspective.
My challenge, and perhaps yours, is to allow this truth to sink right down into our hearts. To allow it to move from truth to which we assent and which we (maybe often) vocalise – to a place deep in our hearts which bubbles up into assurance and confident hope.
As the writer to the Hebrews puts it:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
(Heb 6:19, NIV)
A friend has encouraged me to work hard at leaving some of these uncertainties and concerns at the foot of the cross. Sometimes easier said than done. It reminds me of the old hymn:
“Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”
(from What a friend we have in Jesus, Joseph M. Scriven, 1855)
It means that as I get up in the morning and try to lead and care for a family who are as unsettled as I am, I need to keep looking to that cross and reminding myself of the active, purpose-filled, hope-giving work of my Saviour. And then point them to Him too.
It means that as I face circumstances which don’t conform to the neat little plan I had in my mind, that I need to remember they are being presented to me by a loving Father who is working all things for my good and which will one day make more sense.
And it means that I should grow in my longing for heaven, a place where all this uncertainty is gone and there is only joy and praise and wonder.