Sometimes in our lives we are faced with circumstances that would not be considered our ideal. When we plan out what we want our lives to look like, seldom it includes walking through difficult things, and actually seldom our plan includes even moments that are among the greatest we have lived. I don’t know of a person who would plan their ideal life saying: “Oh, I think that when I’m in my twenties I’ll include _____ that sounds marvelous and life-giving, and I know I’ll really glorify God through it.”
It’s not what I planned… but something that I am learning is that His plan is actually much better than mine. His timing is better. His pace is better. And He includes lessons and moments in His decree that are far better than anything I could conjure up in my finite mind: because He is good, and apart from Him, I am not.
So, do I actually believe this? In the midst of the difficult things, I’m not going to lie and say I always believe that what I am going through is ultimately for good. I see the depravity of my behaviors, my thoughts, my motives, and all I can see is sin
I’ve actually been very discouraged lately; I am even finding myself questioning the goodness of the Lord-the sovereign goodness of God that I have been reading about consistently for almost six months now… because all I can see is my problem.
We assume that once we commit ourselves to following Jesus that everything is going to get better. I struggled with _____ (fill in the blank) before I knew Jesus four years ago, stuff like that is expected from a non-Christian; but a Christian who battles this… is that even possible?
Yes, it is possible. And it happens when our eyes unfix our gaze from the finished work on the cross. See, right now all I am able to see before me is my problem: I have lowered my gaze from the cross to the world and I have lost sight of the hope and the life that is found in being a Christian. No wonder I don’t see any good: I’m not looking at anything good.
Hebrews 11 begins, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Being a Christian is fixing our gaze, in faith, at the unseen.
I am a firm believer in the absolute sovereignty of God, working all things for the good of His elect, and ultimately to provide Him the most glory. It was mentioned to me recently, relating to a popular theological debate among us SBS students, how the concept of believing in the absolute sovereignty of God can give ground for skewed understanding of man’s role in relation to that, and thus result in behavior that is not consistent. Determinism is appealing in that it perceives to take away man’s responsibility for any action- “for it’s God’s will,” and give man the perception of having no obligation to walk out holiness in their life- “for God is working for good regardless.” Free will is appealing in that it gives man a perceived control, which appears as if ultimately man is in control of his life and decisions. I think that its unsafe to land on either extreme, or there will likely result behavior that is dictated by this theological misconception, or in other words: the book of James was incredibly correct if summarized as: “you behave according to what you believe.”
I believe that God is indeed working for good, and that it is Him who is in control, but with that we are given responsibility to walk it out. (Which I conclude is actually God doing it through our doing.) My favorite theologian, Jonathan Edwards, states it this way in his Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith:
“In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces, that is, our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors.
We are, in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active. In the Scriptures the same things are represented as from God and from us. God is said to convert, and men are said to convert and turn. God makes a new heart, and we are commanded to make us a new heart.
God circumcises the heart, and we are commanded to circumcise our own hearts; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty. These things are agreeable to that text, ‘God worketh in you both to will and to do.’ (Philippians 2:13)”
I know that the good might be the lessons that others learn through witnessing the struggle, or walking besides us on the rough days: pointing to the Bread of Life. It might be the testimony that will once bear after having overcome. It might just be a daily lament before the presence of the Lord, giving His children what is always best: Himself.
I am, though, proclaiming to you today that I love Christ; I know He is actively working in my life, I know He is worthy of all of my life, and I know He is still good. Oh, how He is good.
With Christ in me, equipped by the Holy Spirit, I am equipped to live a completely sinless life in the Spirit. But I know that’s not going to happen, because I am not glorified yet. I am still sojourning in the world that is not my home, corrupt and fallen, but at the same time perfectly righteous before God. Why? Tension.
Look to none other than the Apostle Paul here in Romans 7: 14-25,
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Paul recognized that there was a spiritual tension going on. His heart was filled with the Holy Spirit, he resolved good, but his body was a product of this world and a servant of the flesh. What then? How can you overcome such battle? This may sound elementary here, but I do have an answer for you: Jesus.
Because of what Jesus accomplished in his sacrificial death on the cross, I do have victory. Every day that my flesh wins the battle, I know that there is grace because Christ has won the war. He rose again defeating sin and death, and it was only through the sin of man crucifying Him, the most wicked of sins ever committed to my regard, that there is this goodness. The ultimate good was secured eternity for God’s chosen people, promised life with God forever; and it was only through sin that it could have been accomplished- the sin of man crucifying Jesus, God the Son.
With that, I know that despite the most-wicked of sins, there is always goodness for those who love God. There is always good, because God has promised to work all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. So who am I to define goodness in my finite regard to struggling or not struggling in life in our unglorified bodies? I’m a daughter of God, that’s who I am; and I know that God is good, God is totally in control, and I am totally secure in His promise of full sanctification on my last day. There is victory…there has been since three days after Jesus was crucified. All glory to God.