Everyone experiences misfortune and crisis, without exception. It is our human condition. Calamities don’t have to define our lives; in fact, in God’s hands, they refine.
In a commencement address to his son’s high school graduating class, Justice John Roberts refused just to wish them “good luck”. Instead he hoped for something better – misfortunes.
He hoped they would be treated unfairly to know the value of justice; they would experience betrayal to know the importance of loyalty; they would be lonely so as not to take friends for granted; they would have bad luck to understand neither their success or other’s failures were completely deserved; that from time to time opponents would gloat over their failure to know the importance of sportsmanship; that they would be ignored to know the importance of listening to others; and to have just enough pain to learn compassion.
He wasn’t concerned if his hopes would be achieved; in fact, he was confident they would happen.
THE BEST IN THE BAD. We all experience good and bad in life. However, it is in our bad experiences, our crises, and our misfortunates where the “best” can happen to us. Why? Because as Albert Einstein said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purposes.” Romans 8:28
The past few blogs have been about finding our role, our core purposes in life. Our specific experiences are the primary tools the Holy Spirit uses to refine us. It is the difficulties, trials, tragedies, and troubles of life that are most effective; but only, if we let them.
WELCOME LIKE A FRIEND. We can resent or resign ourselves to these “unwelcome intruders” when they happen. But, then they will begin to define our lives, they will be a rude guest taking control. If we willingly welcome them as a “friend”, embrace them, and put them to use, they become the chisels that will shape our character.
Recently, in a TED talk Matt Weinstein shared his story about losing all his wealth in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. He was bitter, angry, and lost until he realized it wasn’t what happened to them that matter, it was how they were reacting.
He told his wife, “Bernie may have stolen our money, but we can’t let him steal our lives.” His talk emphasizes the things that all, spiritual or not, know really matter about being a human being.
HOW MUCH MORE? If the secular world can see these things, how much more as Christians should we be able to let triumph emerge out of tragedy? It is God’s purpose for all to flourish. How much more, in the triumph of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit, can “all things work together for good for those of us who love the Lord”? We should be a light to the world.
Remember the story of Joseph in Genesis (chapters 37-50)? His brothers literally sell him out; his Egyptian employer’s wife incriminates him and gets him thrown in jail. Through a number of circumstances involving his cellmates, this “ex-con” eventually ends up working for the Pharaoh, in charge of the distribution of food during a global famine. Eventually the brothers who betrayed him show up before him.
After the death of their father, Jacob, the brothers fearfully come to him seeking forgiveness and offer to be his slaves. Joseph’s response, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.” (Genesis 50:20)
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Psalm 91:14-15
GOD’S POWER TRANSCENDS ALL. He governs the universe in its entirety. He is greater than life and death. His activity is not just a “coping” mechanism to endure this temporal life. It is a proactive participation in the unveiling of his kingdom in our “forty acres”. An unveiling that is a foreshadowing of the eternal future we will experience together.
This is why Paul is able to say we can boast in our sufferings (Romans 5:3-5) and James tells us to count trials as all joy (James 1:2-3) or Peter reassures us to rejoice even though we grieve (1 Peter 1:6).
“LEAD ON, LORD JESUS!” This is living faith. These acts are our expression of faith. We hear God’s voice and his particular message to us in these trials. We gain more than we lose.
We grow in confidence of God’s great love. We are refined and transformed more into his likeness. And, when the next trial comes we say.
“Lead on, Lord Jesus, lead on!”