My Good Versus God’s Good
I have the privilege today of presenting guest blogger, Jeff Whitebread. Jeff (or Pumpernickel as I like to call him) is a good friend and sincere brother. Jeff is just starting his own blog (see the link below), and he has so generously volunteered to share his current STRETCHING story here.
(If you’re interested in guest posting on my blog, please drop me a comment. I’d love to connect with you.)
It certainly is a pleasure to be a guest contributor on my good friend’s blog. In sticking with the theme of being stretched, it is always helpful when I consider God’s purpose in stretching my life. For when I focus on life’s circumstances, I can often feel overwhelmed and find myself being swept away in moments of despair. For in the midst of life’s turmoil, I can feel as if I am being pulled apart from the inside, as if a part of me is dying. I am left with these nagging thoughts. Why does God make life so hard? If life is this hard, am I doing something wrong?
Romans 8:28-29 says,
(28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
As I read this passage, an obvious truth jumps out from V28. God works all things for the good of those who love him, not some things or most things. God is working every single thing in my life out for my good. If I love God, then I can take this truth to the bank. I can believe this truth and live according to this truth. But wait, not everything that happens to me appears to be good, and here my story of being stretched begins.
When I was told, I was losing my job several weeks ago my first reaction was not, “thank you God this is so good.” It was a shock. I had to pick my jaw up off the table. Now, you must understand, I knew my job was going to end. I have been working for an insurance company that has been going out of business since 2001. When I started working for this company, it had 6,000 employees, and now it has only 150. During this 11 year process, I have seen God reawaken my heart and set a desire to serve him in the full-time ministry. I have viewed these last several years as a time of transition, as a time of preparation to leave the IT field and serve God where He calls.
As God began to open and close doors in my life, I developed a plan for how things were going to work out. I began thinking about how I was going to transition from working as an IT geek to being a missionary to our elected officials in Harrisburg. It was a smooth transition, it was neat and clean and in truth it required little risk and even less faith. After all, I will be serving the Lord; He would certainly bless such pure intentions. What I failed to see and what God is teaching me and stretching me to understand is this truth. God has a different purpose in mind. While I am focused on the destination, God’s laser beam focus is on me as an individual.
Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, how does God define the word “good” in v28? We quickly realize through life’s circumstances that God is not working in our lives the way we might desire Him to work. He is doing something strange to us; He is taking us places we have no interest going. Our hearts cry out as we try to make sense of the situations we face. You see V29 tells us the goal, the good thing God is doing in our lives. What God desires for us, what He is working to accomplish through every situation and circumstance we face is to become like Jesus. This is what He wants; this is what He is doing. When we face the hard times in life we can hold onto this truth – this difficult and challenging situation is in my life because God is doing something good. His purpose for me is to be conformed to the image of His Son. He is working in my life and taking me through the hard time because his desire is that Christ may be formed in my life.
As I face the realities of my life and think of how God is at work, my plan no longer makes sense. I cannot connect the dots. I did not expect to be out of a job for another 2-3 years, I thought I would be one of the last people employed in my company. Obviously, God had a different plan from mine. Now I face the fact of raising my support, of trusting God with opening people’s hearts toward this ministry. As I look for God to validate my call through the financial commitment of others, it is humbling, it is scary, and yet it is where God has placed me in my journey to follow Him. I can say through the eyes of faith it is good. Whether I end up in this ministry or serve God in some other area, no matter what happens to my family and the things we place our security on, God is working to create in me the image of His Son.
The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death (Heb 2:9). The path our Lord went down was one of sacrifice and suffering, if this was required of our Lord, should we expect that to become like Him would require anything less for our lives. The worldly part of our heart cries out, “No! Please give us another way.” Yet the cross stands and proclaims that there is no other way in which we can serve our great and glorious King, Jesus the Christ. Is it easy? Never! Is it worth it? Every single moment, for God is actively working for the “good” of our lives.
Through the encouragement of Jon, I am being stretched in another area, I have decided to start blogging about this journey. If you would like to read my attempt to write about this journey, please check out On The Narrow Road.
All for the glory of God!
Where do you see Christ being formed in your life? How have you seen hard times actually used for good?