Many years ago I sat in my lonely apartment in the lowest point in my life. It was the furthest I ever ran from God, I was heavily medicated for chronic pain, I barely had two pennies to rub together and I was living a life in sin. I had lost all hope. The only person I could see was me and the only problems that existed were mine.
How did I get here? What did I do wrong? I pleaded with God. You must just hate me. You just want to punish me.
More than once my dad discipled me over the phone. In so many words, he’d tell me to get over myself and stop the pity party. Of course, he was more gentle and loving, but it pierced my heart nonetheless. It was apparent I needed to stop dwelling inwardly and start reaching out.
He was right. I could not expect to see anything or anyone else if I was only looking at me. I needed to lift my eyes.
I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
When troubles, trials and pain overwhelm our lives, we tend to hurdle into self-blame bitterness. Because of me these trials have come, because of my sins, because of my lack of faith in God, because of my selfishness, because of my weaknesses and failures.
When a loved one is ripped from us we suppose God took them because of our lack of appreciation of our dear one, or perhaps our own disobedience or lack of faith. When we lose a job we suppose God took it because of our ungratefulness or reckless finances. When we receive a chronic or incurable report at the doctors, we suppose God gave the illness because of our carelessness toward our health. When we fail to conceive a child, we assume it’s because of our unlikelihood to be good parents. When day after day we’re stuck in a meaningless job or a difficult living situation we assume it’s because of our worthless identity. When things don’t go our way we suppose God just doesn’t love us enough.
But we need to start changing our “because of” perspective to a “so that”. So that through these difficult circumstances, hardships, and heartbreaks, we depend not on ourselves (and our vast inabilities and inconsistencies), but solely on God, who is all we need.
The tragedies and hardships aren’t necessarily because of us, but God allows them so that He can use them in our lives; so that we will trust Him in a deeper and more meaningful way, so that others may see Christ in us, so that we can minister and support another in their hardship.
A because of mindset indicates an inward view. We are looking within for cause, purpose or excuse. But a so that mindset requires an outward, heavenly view; to look to God – the Creator of the universe, the One who makes the impossible possible, whom works and wills His perfect plan. We have each been given our own specific and one-size-does-not-fit-all set of trials. The exact ones which would bring about His perfect plan for our lives, bring us closer to Him, allow us to reach others for Christ and bring Him all the glory and honor.
God has His best interests in mind, not ours. And what He deems best is what’s best for us. It may not create circumstantial happiness, but it creates holiness and eternal joy.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.