We’re all familiar with the Scripture passage from James 1:2 that tells us to “count it all joy when you meet various trials.” We know from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
But how do you do that when the circumstances don’t look very good?
How can we join the patriarch Joseph and declare to those who would harm us, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good?” (Genesis 50:20)
A lot of our ability to do so comes from trying to see our circumstances from a slightly different angle, a different point of view than our own. We cannot know the mind of God necessarily, but we can submit our hopes, attitudes and reactions to God and ask Him to reason with us and help us have faith about our situation.
Let’s look at two stories: one from the past and one from the present.
Mary and Joseph.
Nine months pregnant with her first child and probably a teenager, Mary journeyed 80 miles with her husband Joseph from her home town of Nazareth all the way to Bethlehem. How many of you would have let your daughter do that? No attendants, no midwife, newlyweds. How many people at the time understood the importance of Mary making the trip? And then she went into labor and gave birth in a manger? As a parent, wouldn’t you have questioned the wisdom of all this?
Why did God allow His son to be treated like this? There was a greater purpose–Jesus’ birthplace was foretold in Micah 5:2. Mary giving birth in a humble setting fulfilled a prophecy:
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Hillary and the Car
Our young friend Hillary wanted to serve the Lord and moved to Santa Rosa to live with us in order to prepare for what she hopes someday will be a ministry to Italians. She bought her dream car, started taking Italian classes at the JC, signed up to go to Florence in the spring semester abroad program and found a job.
Everything went well, except she never could get enough hours at Starbucks to save the money she’d need. She had enough to pay for the semester abroad, but she needed sufficient funds to make the car payment and pay the insurance for the months she was gone. She was very concerned.
In November, she went home to Ukiah for a visit and on her way back, a deer ran onto 101, hit her car and totaled it. She was safe, but very upset.
“What am I going to do now?” she asked as we stood around the kitchen trying to make sense of what had happened to her.
Believing there’s always more than one way to look at things, I tried to find a positive in the situation. “Just think,” I flippantly said, “at least you won’t have a car payment anymore.”
That didn’t make her happy. But, the more I thought about it, an idea formed. A car is expensive to own. Hillary was leaving in a couple months. We had an extra car. She could simply not buy a car, use ours, and then wouldn’t have to pay for the insurance and car payment she didn’t have. Had God answered her need? Albeit in an inconvenient way?
That’s exactly what she did. She’ll tell you now, it was the best thing that could have happened. She didn’t buy another car for TWO YEARS because she’d learned how expensive it was to own a car, even her dream car. What had seemed a disaster turned into a blessing. She just had to accept on faith that God was at work in a way she couldn’t see.
Hebrews 11:1-2 in The Message, tells us, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”
And faith is what we need to take into our situations–particularly when things look bleak, confusion or unclear.
What sort of faith? That everything is known and directed by God.
He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the thoughts [plans/ NIV] that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The key is to trust God’s plans and His purpose for our lives. We also need to recognize that we don’t have all the facts, nor do we necessarily see the facts the same way He does.
Can you try this in just some minor events in your life? When you adjust your sights, how does the picture change?