February 8, 2013

What about uncontrollable situations?

Yesterday something happened that put a damper on my joy. I woke this morning worried and sad. Without permission, I cannot share it except to say there is danger lurking in the life of someone dear to me, a danger that I cannot control nor do anything about.

I’ve been praying for this person and know that God can use such danger to answer my prayers. Yet I also know that this could mean a long period of suffering for him and more pain to others. As I opened today’s devotional reading, I prayed for some encouragement. The first line in the reading said, “To endure is to accept the uncontrollable.” Thud. 

Yet these words ring true. For now, God asks me to trust Him and remember that He can bring joy in sorrow. Not only that, biblical endurance is never mere resignation. Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi did not accept their situation with gritted teeth; instead, they sang with joy and “Jesus… for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2)

This reading goes on to describe three gifts from God that help His people accept the uncontrollable with joy, and endure tough situations while He uses those situations for His purposes. One gift is faith.

By faith (Moses) left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) Faith knows that God is in control. (If not, no one is.) I have been praying that God’s will is done, but also know that sometimes the only way up is first down. After all, it seemed all was lost when Jesus died, yet He rose from the dead. Only then were the fears and sorrows of His disciples forever changed to shouts of victory.

In this current situation, I need to remember the power and grace of God. He still brings life from death. He has not abandoned me nor forgotten those I pray for even though I cannot see Him or what He is doing with my eyes. By faith, I can focus on the One who is invisible.

A second gift from God is love. Some say God is patient and endures because He is eternal, but 1 Corinthians 13:7 says love is the source of perseverance, for love bears all things.” This love is a deep and sacrificial desire for the eternal well-being of others. God uses life’s trials in shaping that eternal well-being. He is patient about it because He cares about the spiritual growth and well-being of everyone, even when we seem to be in grave danger. 

Also, He says this love of His is “shed abroad in my heart” so I can put my own comfort on hold and endure, even spend hours in prayer. Love asks God that His will be done, and earnestly prays that those who control this threat will not have their way.

The third gift and also a source of endurance is vision. Moses “persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Keeping my eyes on the Lord is important. When Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on water, he stayed on the surface as long as his eyes were on Jesus. As soon as he looked at the wind, he began to sink (Matthew 14:28-29). The power of God had not changed, but fear distracted him when he looked at the danger instead of the Lord.

Yet sometimes I wonder if keeping my eyes on Christ is something like a Pollyanna who will not look at nor deal with reality. Do I focus on the One who is invisible so that I don’t have to deal with the nasty parts of life? So I can be happy all the time and not be concerned about anything else?

That could be true, yet in this situation, there seems to be nothing else I can do but trust God. If there is, God has not shown it to me. The only thing I can think of is ranting and raving about the danger, yet such fear-motivated action would certainly drive this person closer to it. Besides, whatever I do without being motivated by faith — is sin. (Romans 14:23) I need to listen to God and obey Him, not my fears.

For now, He bids me to bring this situation to Him, asking Him to take care of it and do whatever pleases Him and brings blessing to His people. I know that the invisible One can do exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or imagine. I just cannot see what His answer looks like — yet. 

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