Justin Taylor reminded me of some great lines out of J.I. Packer's classic book, Knowing God (p. 97). In it, Packer writes about how to understand the "unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things" that happen to us. What do they mean?
Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly.
(In his post, Justin wisely cautions us to resist the temptation to skim over that line.)
Then Packer ponders the possible purposes God might have in mind for you:
Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions.
Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us.
Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit.
Perhaps his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest. . . .
Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.
We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here. . . . Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust his wisdom, even when he leaves us in the dark.
But how should we respond to baffling and trying situations when cannot now see God's purpose in them?
First, by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the gospel of God requires of us;
Second, by seeking God's face specifically about them.
"If we do these two things," Packer writes, "we shall never find ourselves wholly in the dark as to God's purpose in our troubles."
Given all of the unexpected things that have happened and are happening in my life-in the life of our church-Packer's lines are a great reminder that faith trusts God even when it cannot trace him. God is doing something in your life, in my life, and in the life of our one new church that is above and beyond anything we could ever ask for or imagine.
So, as hard as these days have been, hang on. God promises that the best is yet to come. Think big. This is going to be amazing.
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About Tullian Tchividjian
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A Florida native, Tullian is also the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership Journal. A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (M.Div.), Tullian has authored a number of books including Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Crossway). He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S., and his sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program LIBERATE. As a respected pastor, author, and speaker, Tullian is singularly and passionately devoted to seeing people set free by the radical, amazing power of God's grace. When he is not reading, studying, preaching, or writing, Tullian enjoys being with people and relaxing with his wife, Kim, and their three children—Gabe, Nate, and Genna. He loves the beach, loves to exercise, and when he has time, he loves to surf.
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