I am a “ponderer.” I see the tough things in my life, the lives around me, and the world at large and try to figure out why. Why is it so difficult? Why do we suffer injustice? Why is there so much heartache? Then I continue a mental debate that can span hours. It often creates a complete sadness that ends in me wishing for the day when this earth as it is would end. It really is a bit of a worthless exercise. I then have to accept that all of life’s answers aren’t mine and choose to surrender to one of the anchors of my faith, which is hope.
But there were years when my choice of hope was laced with a vague acceptance that maybe God had just lost this one, that it was a set back to His plan. He’s taking one for the team. Until it dawned on me that God being God, doesn’t suffer setbacks. His purpose will always move forward through life’s difficulties, injustices, and even our heartache.
When we think that what is supposed to happen has been sidelined by the author of evil in our world, we must remember God’s purpose can’t be thwarted. Satan is not equal to God. He was a part of God’s creation, a resident of heaven, described as beautiful with a high position among his peers, yet he lusted for power. He wanted to be God, something he could never attain.
There are many seasons in our lives when it seems Satan has won. We feel the path we are on has been closed, the door slammed in our face. Just as this is true today, it was also true of the family of God in Biblical times. But the opportunity in having God’s Word today is that we have the privilege of reading the rest of the story.
His purpose will always move forward through life’s difficulties, injustices, and even our heartache.
When Moses and the children of Israel were finally freed to leave Egypt, their path took them directly to the Red Sea. With the Egyptians on their heels, it appeared to those who had just fled the bondage of slavery that they were facing imminent defeat.
“As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:10-12, NLT).
We are fortunate to know what happened next. “Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” (Exodus 14:21-22).
What appeared to be a hopeless situation instead became an opportunity for God to demonstrate His power and purpose, creating an inspiration for us to have hope even in the face of the impossible. God did not experience a setback; instead He created an opportunity.
The pinnacle of our faith, which seems so very obvious to us today, must have appeared hopeless to those who walked the dusty road with Christ. The hope and relationship that was found in Christ by those who accompanied Him must have been dashed on the night He was arrested. As Peter, James, and John watched the soldiers approach in the garden of Gethsemane and then watched as Jesus was led away to face ridicule, torture, and the most horrendous execution in human history, their hearts must have been crushed, their hope destroyed.
But again, it is the end of the story that reveals God’s purpose. We see this purpose as told to Mary and Martha at the empty tomb: “Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. Remember what I have told you” (Matthew 28:5-7).
God did not experience a setback; instead He created an opportunity.
The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ were the only means to offer us a final solution, the last sacrifice that would yield to all mankind the opportunity to leave behind sin and death. This path was known by God well before that fateful day Christ was taken away from those who loved Him, whose hearts were broken and their hope destroyed. It was not a setback, but a move forward in His perfect plan.
Yes, many days I still ponder, face discouragement, and can feel hopelessness. There are seasons I curl up in an emotional ball and just ask God when we can be done with this earth. When can I just leave behind the pain and injustice, whether it is in my life or the world around me, and move to the perfect home He has built for all who follow Him? His answer has been “not today.”
Each difficult day is not a setback for the God we serve. Our difficult days may be to make us more compassionate; they may be to amaze us over something astounding He intends to do. I do believe it will be greater than we can now comprehend. Each of our days is for us to walk this earth and follow His purpose, whether we understand what that is or even if we don’t.
But my hope lies in the confidence that He has a purpose. May I remember He loved me enough to send His Son to endure that horrific death so I could one day enter that perfect land. That land where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4). That is one really great end to this life’s purpose.
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