Pastor, evangelist and author, Alan Redpath, once said,
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me
until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.
If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose.”
You know, life can deal us out a lot. More often than not the available space on our plate is already at a very sparse minimum, and we are already convinced of our inability to coordinate even one more small task. And then God allows more, and the allowance isn’t always tolerably small.
The little phrase “but God…” is often used in the context of God sweeping in with abundant grace, mercy and provision to “fix” a bad situation. However, it may be less utilized in a sentence like this: “My plate was already full, my emotions were already tattered, my faith was already shaken, and I could not bear another load--but God unexpectedly added ______________.”
It’s important to know that a loving God will absolutely test our tolerances. We like for God to rush in mightily with the supernatural help and resources needed to bring resolution and peace to formidable situations in our life, but we like it much less when God sweeps in and heaps unexpected challenges and difficulties into a life and schedule that may be, by our own evaluation, already pressed to the limit.
As of late, my own plate has been pretty full. My father passed away in April of 2022. Shortly after that, my wife and I packed up our house, sold it and moved. Then, almost immediately, God moved me to a new church. All the while, I’ve been battling with a very painful pinched nerve which has brought a halt to many things in life that I enjoy. It's been a tight schedule of P.T., chiropractor visits and now I have a second MRI scheduled this week—one that I pray will lead directly to the corrective surgery needed in this situation. Between my own doctor appointments, we now add that my precious mother is awaiting some test results. We’ve been busy, but it’s not as much physical busyness as it is mental busyness, and for me, constant nerve pain. It’s been draining. It continues to be draining, but God continues to be good.
Recently, I’ve found that Scripture brings a much greater worth of comfort to me than it has in past years. I believe there are two reason behind that fact. The first is that I’m hopefully growing in my walk with Christ. The second is that I’m older, and God has had more years to “put me through some stuff.” How comforting it is to know that all of that “stuff” has been vetted by God Himself. The minute details of every difficulty has been thoroughly examined, weighed and measured by a God who has then allowed into my life for purpose.
Let’s quickly look to Scripture…
Psalm 119:71-72 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”
Eugene Peterson translates this wonderfully in the Message.” He says, “My troubles turned out all for my best. They forced me to learn from Your textbook. Truth from Your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine.”
There’s a richness in the lessons of “affliction” and difficulty that money (or a gold mine) can not purchase. Understanding the fact that God uses everything in our life to focus us on Him, we should be encouraged when difficulty comes to fill our plates. That's a tough feeling to embrace when walls begin to close in around you, but when that happens, we should immediately begin looking for God's purpose. God always has a purpose, and in that purpose, we always have an opportunity.
Pastor Rick Warren once wrote something like this: "Life is series of problem-solving opportunities which will either develop you or defeat you, depending on your response to them." He then went on to list 5 ways that God wants to use difficulties in your life.
From my best memory they are as follows:
God wants to use problems to DIRECT you, INSPECT you, CORRECT you, PROTECT you and PERFECT you. I’m sure you can search online to find his resources, but the information that I have recalled brings some positive light to situations that may often seem just a little too much at the moment.
Isn’t it good to know that God has already looked through every situation that He allows to transpire in our life? The journey that those difficulties must take as they travel through God’s meticulous vetting and then on to us, being strategically implanted into our life at just the correct moment, should clarify that they hold a place of great importance in God’s ultimate plan. Difficulties are opportunities to find God and learn from Him.
Friends, be encouraged that God has good plans for you, and I pray that you understand the sovereign authority that God wields in allowing the difficulties that interrupt our schedule and possibly even steal our peace. Nothing enters our life without sovereign permission. Don’t neglect to find the beauty of God’s goodness, often coming to us initially disguised as struggle. That struggle has made a great and long journey, and it arrives with even greater purpose.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!