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 that 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 as well, so that we trust him rather than ourselves to get through those circumstances.
However, we often don’t approach it that way. We think that if God cared about us, he’d change our situation. In fact, 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?
The Exodus account is a great example of laying down our circumstances. After the second plague out of ten (frogs, by the way), Pharaoh asks Moses to remove this lousy set of circumstances. Moses’ response in Exodus 8:9 is worth noting: He actually gives 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 ultimately will deliver Israel.
In contrast to this attitude is the well-known (and often overargued) hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 8:14, 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, already knowing how he would respond to his 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).
Sometimes, parting the Red Sea is 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 begin to change as well. So give it all to God, and let him accomplish his will through your circumstances.
Lay It Down Today
Let’s spend some more time with a question you hopefully began addressing in last week’s small-group session: What circumstances are you facing right now that seem impossible to you—and maybe, therefore, also seem impossible for God?
Ask God to open the way for you to walk through your circumstances—not asking for a solution (though 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 stop reading, but spend time waiting. Give God the chance to speak—and give yourself the chance to hear.