Have you ever been caught off guard in life? The first words out of your mouth in such times may have been, "Where in the world did that come from?"
Most of us have been in such places. As I observe the experiences of good people going through challenging times, these thoughts arise in my mind:
The unpredictable can become the unimaginable.
We've all witnessed such events. Earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, and a thousand other events have the power to transform everything in a matter of moments. Such is the nature of life. In just seconds, everything can change.
When looking for God's presence, begin with the details, not the big picture.
In the face of large problems, our faith in a great God leads us to expect His presence in the reordering of the big picture. There is nothing wrong with this. Note the adjectives: large, great, and big. Sometimes our focus on the big picture obscures the fact that God is working on the details and will allow the big picture to emerge from His own activity.
The purpose of life is often obscured by the demands of one's personal agenda.
Trouble and difficulty interrupt life's agenda. We see this as detrimental to the engaging of life's purpose. Experience suggests the real purpose of life can be hidden by the demands of one's personal goals. Only grace can help us acknowledge that God's real purpose for us continues to unfold even though our personal agenda lies at our feet in broken pieces.
The sooner we accept our role as students and learners, the faster God can teach us the way of mastery.
No one is born with the knowledge of how to feed ourselves, tie our shoes, or even comb our hair. But we all think we can. Learning only begins when one accepts the role of student. God admires our wisdom and confidence, but longs to teach us. The true follower of Jesus is a learner.
What we call tragedy is often our self-assuredness bumping into God's sovereignty.
It is only natural that humankind is reluctant to acknowledge God's sovereignty. Self-determination is deeply rooted in our hearts. When our routines, plans, and ambitions are scattered to the winds of adversity, we grieve such losses. We are free, but we are not ultimately free. In a world where God is thought of as "one of us," we quietly bristle at the thought of His sovereignty. Sometimes, the unseen limits imposed by a loving God protect the foolhardy though they might not suspect it.
The proof of God's work in us is not always validated by the opinion of those around us.
In life's university, the course work is challenging. There are no easy grades, no fluffy classes. God, however, is the Master Mentor. He is instructing us down to the minutest detail, if we will pay attention. This is not an assembly line classroom experience-it is directed study. Our attention and response to God will soon reveal the fruit of divine coaching and instruction.
When the unexpected steals the cherished, we are most open to God's revelation of ultimate value.
When Jesus told the parable of the two builders, listeners caught the central focus of the story. A sudden storm can wipe out a dream. A tsunami may obliterate a lifetime of effort and leave one the sole survivor to face an unknown future. When all seems lost, God bends low to reveal the treasures He has kept for us.
Hope can be born anew amid the rubble of suffering because God is our eternal dwelling place.
David J. Felter, editor in chief
Holiness Today, March/April 2010