We have had a couple of discussions about depression and tough times around here this past week and it reminded me of this piece I wrote for our local Pastor’s column a couple of years ago.
For years, one of my favorite Bible verses has been Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 16:33: “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.” This promise goes against the grain in modern society. God didn’t promise you an easy life, or a cushy anything this side of heaven. If we believe Jesus, we should expect the opposite. Many have somehow fallen victim to the myth that God is working all things together for our good. That is not what the verse says. The verse says that He is working all things together for good, but He isn’t consulting us for our opinions of what that good is or should be. He certainly didn’t consult Joseph in Genesis for his idea of “good”, because I am fairly certain that being sold as a slave, being falsely accused and thrown in prison and such wouldn’t have been a part of his plan or list of “good things”. But we find Joseph telling his brothers in Genesis 45:7-8, “God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
When I was a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. I still would do it if given the chance. Where is that Pastors in Space program at anyway? Then, when I was 13, I was throwing rocks in the yard at some friends and a rock unexpectedly hit me in the eye at the exact moment that I turned around. The rock cut my eye open and ruined all my plans in an instant. This was not a “good” thing for me. At the time, I was a nominal follower of Christ. I had made a public confession and been baptized a few years earlier, but I lived my life the way I wanted to live it with enough “religious knowledge” to put on a good show if need be. After the accident, a family from our church gave me a get well card that I still have to this day. Inside it says, “God always has a Plan B”. In my mind I often thought, God could still heal me or something else to make the plans I had work out “good” the way I always knew they would.
It is safe to say that I am not an astronaut now, nor am I likely to be one ever. But it has been amazing to behold what can happen in a life that is yielded completely to God. Going wherever He leads and doing whatever He says. I am not perfect in my pursuit of Him and His ways, but I am determined to belong to Jesus Christ and to follow Him the best way I know how. I discovered that God never had a plan B. Rather, like Joseph, I learned that what looked like the worst of all disasters can be used by God in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The only plan B to speak of at all was mine, and I had to let it go to pursue the only plan A worth having. I can’t promise anything to anyone. God isn’t someone we can bargain with or control. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and asks for nothing less than our complete obedience and submission to His authority as such.
When we preach a gospel that tells people otherwise. When we lead people to believe that God is there to give them the best things in life or that He only wants to help them have a better life or even the innocuous sounding “has a ‘great’ plan for your life”, we are leading them into disappointment and disillusionment! Life doesn’t become easy or “magically better” just because we have decided to follow Jesus. For some brothers and sisters in Christ, life is usually much more difficult because of their decision and the persecution it brings. As a minister, I am not immune to life. Even those preachers on TV get sick too you know. Jesus promised that if you live in this world, you will have trouble. He didn’t say might have trouble, or you will have trouble until you become a Christian and then it will end. To quote one of my favorite movies, “Life is pain, highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something.”