In Control

I read an outstanding devotion from Jerry Bridges recently.  This has certainly rung a strong sense of “truth” within my soul.  Take a look at it and see what you think.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.  James 1:2-4 [ESV]

We can be sure that the development of a beautiful Christlike character will not occur in our lives without adversity.  Think of those lovely graces Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  The first four traits he mentions–love, joy, peace, and patience–can be developed only in the womb of adversity.

We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly.  Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us.  We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment.  Adversities spoil our peace and sorely try our patience.  God uses those difficulties to reveal our need to grow so that we’ll reach out to Him to change us more and more into the likeness of His Son.

Both Paul and James speak of rejoicing in our sufferings (see Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4).  Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, have difficulty with that idea.  Endure them, perhaps, but rejoice?  That often seems like an unreasonable expectation.  We are not masochistic; we don’t enjoy pain.

But Paul and James both say that we should rejoice in our trials because of their beneficial results.  It’s not the adversity considered in itself that is to be the ground of our joy.  Rather, it is the expectation of the results, the development of our character, that should cause us to rejoice in adversity.  God does not ask us to rejoice because we have lost our job or a loved one has been stricken with cancer or a child has been born with an incurable birth defect.  But He does tell us to rejoice because we believe He’s in control of those circumstances and is working through them for our ultimate good.  — Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, as quoted in How Great is Our God, 9/5

I really believe this, that God can use tragedy for good.  He doesn’t send tragedy; this is one of the greatest fallacies in human thinking.  He allows it for now, but it won’t be this way forever.  Why didn’t he destroy the enemy in the very beginning?  Because if He did, no one would ever have chosen Him willingly.  We would’ve chosen Him out of fear, and would really have had no other option.  The evil and disruption and storms in this world must continue for a time, because of God’s great patience and long suffering (even for those who reject Him), but it will not continue forever.  In the meantime, I truly believe that we can trust Him, no matter what comes in our lives.  He can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).  That’s not a copout; it’s the blessed truth.

I realize I have not experienced the hardships that others around the world (or even you, perhaps) deal with every day.  I don’t know why God allows it, but I pray for these precious ones (and for you) when I’m awake at night, and I often hear of miraculous ways God has encouraged or healed even in the darkest nights.  I have felt that instantaneous healing touch myself more than once.  I know that these words are true and that all people will see and know this some day; I’m certain of this.

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