I have to admit: I’ve always been perplexed by people who talk about the “comfort” of the Christian life, especially in terms of it being the primary reason for believing in Christ. To be sure, there’s “comfort and joy” to be had in knowing Christ, and “a peace that passes all understanding.” But humanly speaking, there’s still life to be lived. And life can be painful, so much so that it cuts through the veneer of all that joy and peace people both inside and outside of Christianity think we’re supposed to be exuding 24/7.
The good news is: God’s OK with that. In fact, He’s the one who’s allowed those circumstances to happen. And a big reason He allows them is this: Our circumstances reveal who we are and what we really trust. The situations we face each day—especially the bad ones—tend to bring out what we’re made of, whether we want them to or not. We may be shocked by what our circumstances reveal about us, but God isn’t. And He wants us to stop being shocked, too, and instead put our trust in Him rather than ourselves to get through them.
But very often, we don’t approach it that way. We think that if God cared about us, He’d change our situation. Consider this, then: That was pretty much the serpent’s argument in the garden, and it worked. Even Paradise wasn’t good enough for us.
On the other hand, when we lay our circumstances before God, He provides a way through them, even when we think things might be impossible—or probably closer to our real issue, even when we have no control over our circumstances. I already have the control, God reminds us; are you going let Me do what I need to do, or are you going to continue to fight Me?
We see a great example of laying down circumstances in the Exodus account. After the second plague out of 10 (frogs, by the way), Pharaoh asks Moses to remove this lousy set of circumstances. Moses’ response in Exodus 8:9 is worth noting: “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile” (ESV). Moses is actually giving Pharaoh, the enslaver and persecutor of his people, permission to set the dates for this plague to be removed. Yet by doing this, he’s acknowledging that no matter what Pharaoh decides, God is still in control and will ultimately deliver Israel.
In contrast to this attitude is the well-known (and often over-argued) hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 8:14, 19, 32, 9:12, etc.). The best definition I’ve seen of this “hardening” is “the continuation of a prior condition.” Put another way, God was pressing Pharaoh’s buttons and revealing his heart, knowing how he would respond to his circumstances. Because God had something better in mind for Israel, and that way led directly through those hard circumstances:
For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go (Exodus 9:15-17, ESV).
Sometimes, parting the Red Sea is a lot easier than opening up a human heart.
And that brings us back to… us. We want to change our outer circumstances; God is more concerned with changing our inner circumstances—the very ones we seemingly should have more control over but don’t. (Read Romans 7 if you don’t believe me, or even if you do.) When that happens, our outer circumstances already begin to change. And God will be there for the rest of it as well.
Lay It Down Today
Let’s spend some more time with a question you hopefully began addressing during last week’s small-group session: What circumstances are you facing right now that seem impossible to you—and maybe, therefore, also seem like they’re impossible for God to handle as well?
Ask God to open the way for you to walk through your circumstances—not a solution (although He may well provide one), but to see clearly how to follow Him through whatever it is you’re facing right now. Resolve to wait for God’s answer, and ask Him for the strength to wait. Start that waiting right now. Don’t just throw up a prayer and close this book, but spend time right now, waiting. Give God the chance to speak—and for yourself to hear.