I was thinking yesterday about the occurrence of crappy things in our lives. Like, how sometimes it feels so random and arbitrary when they come along. Everything is going along pretty swimmingly, your heart and relationships and walk with God feel like it’s in a good place, and then BAM! Something awful happens. And it throws you for a loop not just because it was unexpected, but also because it just felt like you were back on track with life, and things were moving in the right direction.
And now you’re derailed again.
When I was a teen and this happened, I would get so bent out of shape. And I would actually use it to reinforce the worldview I held about life being irretrievably broken and painfully miserable, and how I shouldn’t get my hopes too high because the bottom would fall out if I just waited long enough.
But even though this helped me to come to terms with the question of “why bad things happen to good people” this was a very unhealthy mentality. It caused me to be down on God, down on myself, and down on pretty much everything. Life isn’t always sunshine and unicorns, but it’s also not always daggers and banana peels. I really needed to find a better perspective.
Everything is going along pretty swimmingly, your heart and relationships and walk with God feel like it’s in a good place, and then BAM! Something awful happens.
About a decade ago, God showed me something really cool, which has helped me to be much more thankful – on a daily basis – about the things in my life. It made so much sense to me, and I honestly think about it every day because, to be honest, I never have a day where absolutely every little thing goes perfectly. And so it allows me to more readily shrug off the crappy things that happen, and reminds me that on the whole, in the big picture, life is actually good.
And so is God.
And I need to give both a lot more credit.
You may recall the story of Job, and how things were pretty dang awesome in his life before all of a sudden everything fell apart. And I mean everything. He lost his family, his property, and his health all in one day. Just POOF, disaster struck and it was all gone. Right after he contracted a very painful skin disease, and in the wake of all of these devastating losses, Job’s well-meaning wife wanted to just give up. She didn’t really know how else to reconcile all that had happened, and she didn’t feel like there was anything left to live for, or even hope for. Job was still trying to hold it together and believe that things could and would get better one day even in the midst of such calamity and heartbreak, but his wife was just done, and said to him, ““Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
I’ve cried out to Him, I’ve given Him the silent treatment, I’ve yelled at Him, and I’ve asked him so many “WHY???!!!” questions in fits of rage and sadness and hopelessness.
I have wanted to do that some days. I know that sounds melodramatic, but some days have been really, really bad, and there honestly didn’t just feel like there was any reason to keep believing, and to keep holding onto God. I’ve cried out to Him, I’ve given Him the silent treatment, I’ve yelled at Him, and I’ve asked him so many “WHY???!!!” questions in fits of rage and sadness and hopelessness. Perhaps you can relate.
But Job’s response to His wife has been burned indelibly in my mind, and when crappy things happen it helps me to have a balanced, mature perspective about them. He said, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
Whoa. The question cuts deep and reveals the childishness and truculence of our heart: Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
I don’t want trouble.
I want pretty much everything to go my way.
I mean, I’m always doing all of these difficult things, and sucking it up, and gutting it out, and life is just so hard and I’m doing my best and that should matter.
Shouldn’t that matter?!
But I know that’s such an immature view. Even though we might not be stomping our feet and crying and whining and overtly throwing a tantrum, we are still prone to act like a petulant child in our relationship with God. But He is in charge, not us. And He knows what He is doing when He allows bad things in our life, just as He knows what He is doing when He allows good things in our life. It’s not random. It’s not arbitrary.
He knows what He is doing when He allows bad things in our life, just as He knows what He is doing when He allows good things in our life. It’s not random.
We know that everything that happens to us passes through God’s fingers, and we also know that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. It’s perfectly arrogant for me to say that I know what is best for me.
I really just do not.
Heck, the track record of some of my choices clearly illustrates that. I’ve given my life over to Him, and I just need to fully trust what He allows and disallows in my life, knowing that ultimately it’s for my good.
Not only is it immature, but it is unreasonable to pitch a fit when bad things happen because we must remember that our lives here aren’t supposed to be perfect. We live in a messed up world, and we are all messed up people, and like Job said, we are foolish if we can’t understand that life will beat us up sometimes. We’re going to win some, and we’re going to lose some.
We live in a messed up world, and we are all messed up people, and we are foolish if we can’t understand that life will beat us up sometimes.
That has to be okay, because that is normal, and that is everyone’s story. No one is perfectly protected from hardship, and no one has a pain-free life.
Shall I accept good and not trouble? No, I shall accept both. Gladly. Because He knows what He’s doing, always and forever. Because He loves me and has the best for me. Because it’s not random or arbitrary, despite how it seems.
There is a reason, and even if I never understand it, it is for my good.
The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.When I read that, I was like, whoa, God, you’re really calling them out. What exactly do You want them to ask You about? I mean, what they are doing isn’t rocket science. I’m not saying their work is super easy, but it doesn’t seem very complex:
- You don’t need to get a degree to learn how to be a shepherd.
- You don’t need to go through an apprenticeship or any sort of extensive training.
- You probably don’t have to read books or study for a standardized exam or watch some instructive YouTube videos to do a decent job.
God is basically saying that you’re going to fail on both accounts because you failed to reach out to Him for wisdom, guidance, direction, and connection.I mentioned you have two tasks as a shepherd: to keep the animals alive, and to keep them together. God is basically saying that you’re going to fail on both accounts because you failed to reach out to Him for wisdom, guidance, direction, and connection. And even though I could only think of one question to ask God if I were a shepherd, I am sure there are plenty more. And that’s the thing – when you know God as your only source and only help and only hope – and you have absolutely nothing else to depend on, not even yourself - there is plenty to inquire of Him. Plenty. From my perspective, my life is a lot more complex than a shepherd’s. It feels like I have a billion more responsibilities and stressors and obligations and pressures. But these verses served as a mirror to me, and what reflected back was disappointing and even a little shameful. But I’m glad for the correction. I need to inquire of the Lord a lot more than I do. Otherwise, I just flat out will not prosper. And my flock will be scattered. What could that possibly look like if I fail to regularly reach out to Him, consult with Him, connect with Him? Well, things could go sideways in my relationship to my wife or my kids. That which I am currently stewarding – what’s in my bank account, my car, my home, my investments, my work projects – could be taken from me and given to others. Those under me – who I am meant to mentor and inspire and encourage – might no longer look to me in that capacity or role. I could honestly lose everything. Everything important to me could fall away. He holds us and our lives together. He definitely holds me together; I would be such a hot mess without Him and the peace, confidence, strength, and unconditional love He provides. I think God, as our Heavenly Father, just wants to be involved. He just wants to do life with us, and inquiring of Him about any and everything – whether it seems mundane or self-evident or really important – makes that happen. It brings Him to our remembrance constantly, and He deserves that. I mean, He holds us and our lives together. He definitely holds me together; I would be such a hot mess without Him and the peace, confidence, strength, and unconditional love He provides. And I want to do life with Him. I really, really, really do. I just get busy, or self-reliant, or too comfortable in my own strength and choices and decisions and plans, for my own today and tomorrow and next month and next year. By default, it becomes all about me more and more and more. And that’s sad, and regrettable. Because truly, I want it to be about Him more and more and more. That is my heart. That is my desire. I know – and have experienced time and time again – that when He is involved, everything works out so much better. He blesses me immensely with regard to what I say and do so much when I’ve prayed about it, sought His insight, and relied on His perspective (instead of my own, or the world’s perspective). And though I know this full well, I still get lazy, or prideful, or complacent, or just too comfortable – not remembering when things are good how badly I need Him in my life. But I always want to remember how badly I need Him in my life. Because that keeps us close to each other. And that keeps me dependent, humble, unassuming, patient, grateful, and kind. Plus, the complexities of my life are so much more manageable when He’s right there with me to help shoulder the load and love me through it, every single step of the way. Image sources: http://bit.ly/2q0MUc8 http://bit.ly/2zPWhuQ
- More in the professional sense (better job, higher income, growth of business, more property, more investments)
- More in the personal sense (wiser spending habits, being a better person, more time with family and friends, getting organized, enjoying life to the fullest, higher levels of health and fitness)
- gave up soda
- worked out more
- earned my degrees
- published papers
- got promoted
- bought a home
- gained more followers on social media
- went on more adventures
- finally set up a 401K
- watched more TED talks
- read more books
- learned more life hacks
- spent more time with family
- began guitar lessons
- volunteered in the community
- drank more water
- Archie comics
- Baseball cards
- My BB gun
- Calvin and Hobbes
- Music (so much!)
- Books (so many!)