“If you will seek God,
and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore your rightful habitation.”
“And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”
Oh how these words of Job’s friend connect with us – with how we want things to be. That “surely” God won’t let bad things happen to good people. So when we see it happen, our conclusion is that if we’re good enough, if we pray enough, He’ll fix it – or else He must not really be a good God at all.
But what if it goes deeper than that? What if real truth is found not in what we see and what makes sense to us at the moment, but rather in Jesus’ words in John 9, that “bad” things – difficulty, sickness, loss of dreams or loved ones – are not necessarily the result of sin, but rather are designed to display God’s glory and power and love and goodness in and to us?
My heart is drawn to Psalm 73. The writer is perplexed and discouraged by the prosperity of the wicked. At one point he cries out, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean” (v. 13).
But seeking to understand, he comes to God’s sanctuary. And receives a bigger picture.
What happens here, in this mortal life, is not the end. This is temporary. And it is all impacted by the brokenness caused by sin’s presence here. And yes, maybe God will display glory and power by miraculous, unexplainable healing. Maybe He will save from the fire as He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all those generations ago. Maybe He will cause our dreams to fall into place beautifully and give us that for which our hearts long. Maybe He will, and we must have faith that He is able.
Or maybe – just maybe – He will show His power through our weakness, sustaining us and filling us with Himself, allowing us to come to know through experience that He is enough. Maybe He will display glory by making our lives abundant and our hearts fill with wonder at His nearness and love as we continue to walk through difficulty – and maybe that is not less. Maybe His purposes in the hardship are greater than any dreams we had for ourselves, and maybe our lives will be more full than they would have been had He let us settle for the things for which we asked.
Your path, whatever it looks like, is filled with the beautiful purposes of our good God. And please know, I do not say that lightly. I don’t come from a perspective of everything having gone according to my plans. There are dreams left unfulfilled, scars from deep hurts, and painful things that I still don’t understand. But what I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, is that my God knows those who are His. He sees you. He is continually with you. He will withhold no truly good thing from you (Psalm 84:11-12). And while those good things might look different from what we thought we wanted, in the words of John Piper, “God will give you all you need to live the life fully pleasing to Him, and fully and deeply and eternally satisfying to yourself.”
“Thus says the LORD:
‘The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness…
I have loved you with an everlasting love,
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.’”
“‘For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.’
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
“Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked….
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence….
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin….
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:1-3, 13, 16-18, 21-26