There is a prevailing attitude among Christians in general, and especially among Evangelicals, that faith and hope in Christ mean that somehow, someway, God is going to take negative circumstances and turn them around. Health problems will be resolved, favorable political outcomes will prevail, and financial struggles resolved. The world in general scoffs at these views: they believe that personal efforts and strength are what determine the outcomes of circumstance; some even believe simply thinking positively will do the job. But an objective look at history, and what the Bible teaches, will tell you that neither party is completely right about this, and neither is completely wrong.
The truth is that good and faithful Christians suffer from health problems, and sometimes they die from them. Evil, or simply self-interested, politicians gain office, to the detriment of the Christian community. Christians lose their jobs and their homes. In other words, bad things still happen to devout and obedient Christians. The flip side, the humanistic view, is equally distorted by the denial of God’s presence. The Humanist cannot explain why a prayer is answered when there is no material reason for the outcome that took place. Circumstance might defy the law of averages, but there are circumstances that defy odds in such a way that there simply is no reasonable explanation … except that God intervened.
So I think the only possible way to be truly objective is to understand that God has a bigger view of the world than we are capable of perceiving. It’s human nature, Christian or unbeliever, to see the world in the terms that touch most closely on us as individuals. In a way, we can’t help it, except by a determined effort not to. After all, everything we know is filtered through our very selves. And our “self” likes to color things as if it were the only self in existence.
It’s Christmastime, so lets take a look at the Christmas story as an illustration. At the time of Christ’s birth, the Jews of that age were sorely oppressed by the Roman empire. Their local leaders cared only about their own positions and wealth. The Jews cried out to God, and looked for a Messiah who would save them and give them a place in the world again. God answered those cries and sent His Son to be that Messiah. Christ was that long-awaited Savior. But what happened? He was born, He grew up, and He gained influence. He drew crowds, He performed miracles. The Jews of that age who weren’t all still wrapped up in their self-interests thought, “This is it! Messiah has come, and He will make things right again!”
Then He was executed. The promised Kingdom did not come in the form anyone thought it would. He rose from the dead, and it was an astounding miracle, the greatest in the course of human history … but still, Rome continued to oppress Israel, and they sacked Jerusalem and burned down the Temple. This wasn’t even 50 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. All the promises must have tasted like ash to the devout Jews and burgeoning Christian community. They thought Messiah was going to conquer Rome. Jews who did not convert took this as proof Jesus was not the promised Messiah. But the Christians of the day, however belatedly, realized those particular promises were farther off than they thought. They joyfully accepted salvation from sin, but they were outright slaughtered, and scattered to the winds. In other words, their circumstances got even worse.
The patriarch Job knew the taste of ashes very well, both literally and figuratively. This is what he wrote in the book that bears his name:
Job 13:13-15 “Hold your peace with me, and let me speak, Then let come on me what may! (14) Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, And put my life in my hands? (15) Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.”
The takeaway here is the first part of verse 15 – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
There is no false hope in that statement, there is no self-convincing that somehow, someway, God was going to turn his negative circumstances around. As it turns out, God did turn them around for Job, but not until after Job suffered greatly, yet still refused to turn away from his faith. But Job didn’t know that, and countless martyrs in the millennia to follow never saw such a thing. Yet, yet, they continued to trust their Maker … not for what He may or may not do, but for Who He is.
In this present age of Covid-19, and the possible loss of not only health, or even life itself, but the potential for loss income and prosperity, it’s very easy for anyone, Christian or not, to simply say, “It will all work out somehow.” For many, God willing, it will. They will recover from illness, they will recover from financial stress. But some won’t. Some will get very sick, and some will die. Some will lose everything. God simply has a bigger, wider view of our world than we do. But do we trust Him, regardless? The Bible teaches of a God who loves His creation, and will do whatever it takes to bring them to an eternity in His presence. But that doesn’t mean, and it never has, that the journey would be easy. It doesn’t mean they won’t suffer in the process. But it does mean, in the long view of eternity, that He will bring His people home, and they should never fear of being abandoned or forsaken, no matter what it might look like in the here and now.
Upon a dark and wintry night,
When shadows leap in flick’ring light,
A child might quake with every sound …
And all imagined fears abound …
‘Till Mother’s gentle words alight,
And simply say, “fear not.”
In every age, when angels speak,
The hearts that hear them oft grow weak –
From agéd priest to future bride …
From troubled calm, to terrified …
And still, a quiet place to seek,
The angels say, “fear not.”
And though we live in troubled days,
When sharp concern upon us weighs,
The God Who came to earth a Child
Upon our broken state has smiled;
His faithful love our care allays,
And He has said,
Copyright © 2020 David B. Hawthorne