Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. . . . But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:9-10, 17-18).
Life is full of detours . . . bumps in the road. But in the midst of the mess God is making something beautiful. Problem is, we can’t see it while it’s happening; we only glimpse it in hindsight. The challenge, however, is making it through the twists and turns without being swallowed up by a spirit of cynicism.
In the verses above, Paul informs us that pain and betrayal are part of life and ministry in this fallen world. We would wish it were otherwise, but God has chosen to allow these moments to come into our lives to shape us, to make us into the person he wants us to be. As I read these verses this morning in my devotions, three thoughts came to mind. (If you read this blog often, by now I assume you’re not surprised by this.)
God is telling a story. Psychologist Dan Allender makes the point that not only is God our Creator, he’s our Author; that is, he’s writing a story with your life. Not only is he the supreme Architect of all the lives of all people, he’s the supreme Architect of your life as well. When I realize that God is telling a story with my life, I am more apt to pay attention to the pain he’s allowed into my story and ask what he wants to teach me. I ask him, “Why have you allowed this, God? What do you want me to learn? What are you trying to teach me?”
God is in control. We know this but we don’t know it. When I’m in my right mind, I pull from Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28 and remind myself that, although the pain someone has inflicted on me was not right, God must have allowed it; and if he allowed it then there’s a purpose for it. If I had it my way, I would always have a trouble-free life, but thankfully God knows what I need better than I do. It takes faith to believe that, of course. God will do what is necessary to draw me into closer communion with himself. And if you’re anything like me, your prayer life is stronger and more consistent in times of trial. Unfortunately, it takes hard days to show me my pride and self-will.
I love these words by Paul Miller: “At the center of self-will is me, carving a world in my image, but at the center of prayer is God, carving me in his Son’s image.”
How you respond is important. When someone brings pain in my life, I’m faced with a choice. I can respond in kind or I can respond in love. Jesus tells me to love my enemies and pray for them (Matt. 5:43-45). Similarly, Proverbs 25:21-22 reads: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
When we respond in this way to pain and betrayal we can begin to write a new story into our lives and into the lives of others. In this way we serve as signs and agents of the new creation.