Close one eye and look closely at a marble. It seems massive. In fact, the marble is all you see. It dwarfs everything else. But its size is an illusion.
A basketball is bigger. The planet earth is even bigger. Come to think of it, God is infinitely bigger than your marble. Your problems are like that.
(Photo by Sarah Charlesworth, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Life is filled with marbles. When you fixate on your marbles, you can’t see the reality that they are small in comparison to God’s power.
Sure, they’re real. Of course they hurt. But your life is more than your problems, just as the world is more than your marbles. Or it can be. You can stop staring at your marbles. You only need to sit up, blink a few times, and look around.
God is much bigger than your marbles.
Sometimes it seems no one understands what we’re going through. When people fail us, or forget us, or occasionally even forsake us, we’re left alone in the ashes of a reality we never expected—and we certainly never wanted.
In those intense moments of loneliness, confusion, and pain, we ask God for one thing more than anything else. Relief.
(Photo by Alexander Shustov via ooomf)
But when relief is denied, we begin the difficult journey of resisting the notion that God is a cruel sovereign who toys with our lives. After all, He could stop it all in moment.
After everything else but God gets stripped away from our lives, we begin realize that the Lord may want to give us something more—and much greater—than relief.
In those moments, God becomes more real to us than we ever would have known any other way.
I sat in the audience as Joni Eareckson Tada gave this talk to the 2013 National Religious Broadcasters.
Her words completely changed my perspective and mood that night. I walked in grumbling the hard week I experienced . . . and I left filled with gratitude for God.
Watch her video and you’ll understand why. Incredible.
God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.
Just this week I finished reading Joni’s book, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.
Believe me, if you’d like some encouragement in the midst of your pain, this book will show you how to view your struggles with the joy only God provides.
Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. —C. S. Lewis
Often God puts us in impossible situations. We find it frustrating, sure—but it’s never meant to be.
In fact, those unreasonable and often unbearable circumstances are meant to do just the opposite. They’re meant to encourage us.
With the Sea of Galilee in view on the Plain of Bethsaida, Jesus pointed to thousands of people and said to His twelve disciples: “You give them something to eat!” (Mark 6:37).
You can hear the frustration in the disciples’ reply: “Should we spend half a year’s wages to feed them?”
Forget for a moment you’ve heard this story before. Think instead of your current problem.
- Your financial picture is unmanageable.
- A close relationship has been strained for years.
- You’ve been unemployed for much longer than you imagined.
Whatever it is you’re facing today, you face one of many impossible situations.
Now go back to Jesus’ crazy command to His disciples. His solution for them is also His solution for you.
Let me show you why.
Not long ago, my body gave me a little gift.
I awoke suddenly one night with a smarting pain in the body. No matter how I fidgeted and adjusted, the hurt in my lower back only intensified.
The best way I can describe the discomfort compares to having a doctor insert a three-inch hypodermic needle just to the left of the spine, exactly where the kidney sits. Occasionally, just for fun, the doc then twists the needle in a slow, clockwise motion.
The pain literally nauseated me.
Never before had I experienced such an inescapable ache.
The most frightful part was I had no idea what was happening.
We tend to expect God to act in ways we can understand. We work, and so God provides money. We pray, and so God answers prayer. We do this, and so God does that.
In other words, we see God as the effect and ourselves as the cause.
Life is all about God responding, it seems, and if we do nothing, neither will God.
This isn’t true, obviously. But it’s how we feel.
So what if we’re in a situation where we can do nothing? What happens when we can no longer be the cause?
When God asks impossible things of you?
Any woman who has experienced childbirth understands it.
Any helpless man who has witnessed childbirth, like me (twice), understands it to a degree. That’s why the Bible uses the experience of childbirth as a metaphor of our lives.
The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves . . . groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. —Romans 8:22–23
We would all love to have an emotional epidural to where we didn’t feel the pain of life. But that won’t happen.
God doesn’t give us a way to avoid the hurt.
But He does tell us what to think so we can make it through the struggle.
At ten o’clock on a morning each April, sirens ring loud in Israel.
People stop—wherever they are, whatever they are doing—and stand at attention for 120 seconds of complete silence.
Imagine that for a moment. Two minutes. Silence. Everywhere.
Then the sirens rang again, and life resumed—full-speed. This annual pause allows the nation to remember the six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jews.
Today’s date marks Yom Hashoah, known as Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, the Jewish holiday that remembers those who perished in the Holocaust.
Many times I have visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.
It changes you.
It’s always great when God replaces something painful with something wonderful. Or when He provides for a need in a context of desperation.
But what about when God takes away something we enjoy—or even something we need? Or when He allows something bad to invade something good?
Can we then say what Job said?
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. —Job 1:21
During the times when God takes something away from you, it’s easy to feel duped, as if God was some kind of pusher, giving free samples and then removing them after the cravings have their hooks in your heart.
The Lord’s generosity can be misunderstood as cruelty.
Rather than praise God for the time we enjoyed His blessings—we tend to resent His sovereign prerogative to confiscate them.
Here’s some perspective that can help when God takes something away from you that was a blessing.