19 March 2021
The last year has been rather unprecedented. Many, including believers, have gone through ‘traumatic’ experiences; some lost their jobs, others suffered a ‘pay cut’; others experience anxiety and mental stress in dealing with the possibility of getting the viral infection, whilst some went through stressful situations in family relationship, work context and in the uncertainty of what the future holds.
In that light, I find what brother J.I. Packer wrote very instructional and helpful:
” We may think we are well on top of spiritual matters and then experience a traumatic shock that will show us up as spiritually shallow, because the first thoughts that surface after the shock will be neither spiritual nor indeed rational. Instead, wwe may say to ourselves and perhaps to others too, “God has turned against me; he has broken his word; he has let me down; he has forgotten me; there is no hope for me now.” These devastating and despairing and self-pitying notions slander God as well as crush us, and when we find them going through our minds, we shall need someone with spiritual depth and clearheadedness to put us straight.
For though our God remains a God of surprises, and though in the short term some of his surprises hurt us and take our breath away, the final surprise to which all the rest are leading is the happy surprise of more good for ourselves and others, more joy, more wisdom, more contentment, and more exultation in God, resulting from the times of trauma, than ever we thought possible.
The full fruitage of coping through Christ with experiential earthquakes and thunderbolts will be realised only in the life to come, but already those with eyes to see begin to discern it both in themselves and in others. God ‘disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it’ (Hebrews 12:10-11)”.
If we are honest, many of us who are Christians probably went through such experiences with somewhat similar negative thoughts and reactions towards God. We may find it perplexing, frustrating that God allows such circumstances in our lives; we may even feel ‘abandoned’ by God and we end up in self-pity and despair.
What helps is to be convicted that we are living in a fallen world, and we are also ‘struggling’ in our walk with God to become like our Lord Jesus. The life to come, the hope for eternal life and eternal bliss with God – all these are still in the future, but even in the present, God promises us a ‘foretaste’ of eternal life that is abundant and true. Our eternal perspectives, our growing spiritual convictions, and our unchanging confidence in a God who is perfect, who loves us perfectly and never makes a mistake would enable us to discern that God is ultimately interested in making us holy and ready for the new heaven and new earth. Part of this preparation may involve the unexpected ‘trauma’ and ‘surprises’ God brings into our lives, but those who know their God and love Him and fear Him would end up as HIs treasured possession (Malachi 3:16-18).