Are you satisfied with what God has given you today?
Depending on your day, your employment status, your family situation or your tax refund, this may seem like a loaded question. Honestly, we are not a bunch of really patient people. I have had days where, at the first sign of a hangnail I throw my hands up and scream Psalm 13: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Maybe you can relate.
In fact, I have been so unsatisfied with God’s generosity at times that, when God steps in to really prune my life down to essentials, I have no way to handle it. I have to take a day in prayer and wait for the Holy Spirit to reorient my selfishness so that I have a way to understand what he’s doing.
I know what you’re thinking, right? “He’s a pastor! This stuff doesn’t happen to them! They recite all of their memorized scripture while floating 2 feet above the ground and teaching all 12 of their kids the Catechism word-for-word.” I know – it’s a tough image to live up to, and so I’m not really sorry for shattering it. But it’s essential that we not deceive ourselves on how weak we can be. I mean, look at the Priests and the Scribes at the crucifixion: they had forgotten more scripture at this point than I have yet learned, so they should have recognized God’s gifts staring them in the face. From the cross. Bleeding. Dying for them. But they made fun of God instead.
“God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.”
– John Piper
There’s a point at which our suffering causes us to get really angry. And, honestly, I haven’t a lot of reason to claim that ground. I’ve had it pretty good my whole life. Not in comparison to kids who got a Lexus on their 16th birthday or people who get promoted because they’re tall and they smile really, really well. But, I’ve had a good life so far. Better than most – even Christians. In fact, most Christians in history have been treated pretty poorly. Especially in the beginning of the Church, it was tough to be a Christian – even painful.
We all have those great verses that we like to quote at High School graduations: “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” ”Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” And these are good verses. They are true. But, in what way? On Facebook I saw an illustration of Christians facing lions in the Roman Colosseum with Jeremiah 29.11 pasted over it: “I know the plans I have for you…” and that brought my morning to a screeching halt. I had to ask myself how often I had misused Jeremiah 29 myself. Obviously God gave some Christians over to Rome as martyrs – real live (and then dead) martyrs. He does it today. In China, Cambodia, India – our brothers and sisters in Christ face pain and death in order to prove to the World that it cannot defeat God. Jesus is a savior more powerful than lions or fire or death. Or bad sermons. Or unloving family members. Or bankruptcy. Or sexuality. Or doubt. Or _______(this is your fill-in-the-blank moment).
Paul tells us this much in his letter to Rome: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons…” And yet, I have often forgotten. I have, at times, unwittingly doubted the good things of God and mocked him for his “adverse providence.” What is that? God’s adverse providence is that stuff that God does which we don’t like, but which glorifies Jesus more than something I’d rather have. I’ve seen God break off relationships with family and friends, when I thought winning the Powerball would give me so much more opportunity to glorify Jesus. I’ve had pain stare right at me and I’ve had the audacity to mock God in his goodness to me. I was not blessed in that. It was only after I saw the good that came through the pain that I understood – what looked like a loss was a gain for Christ in my life.
And so I find that mocking God is really easy to do when I’m focused on, well, me. When I am the center of my universe I don’t really care if God’s thoughts are higher than my thoughts or not – I’m too into me to worry about the glorious, all-powerful Creator to think that he wouldn’t bow to my wishes. Afterward, after repenting of that, I learn that I am a much better mirror of God’s glory when I am satisfied with whatever he gives. When the loss of the Cross is really the greatest gain in my life, I am on the path of a faith that makes all other things come into a kind of ‘peace.’ And that, I find, is a blessing. I am blessed when I do not mock God, but I am fully satisfied in his gifts for that day – lions or cake; pain or Powerball; adverse or blatantly joyful. I can be satisfied in what God gives me this day – not because it feels like a cold beer in the shade by the lake – because God means it demonstrate the glory of Christ in me this day. In that Spirit, I can sing joyfully in any situation: In my life, Lord, be glorified. Be glorified. In my life, Lord, be glorified, today.