Home Menu

The Flip Side of Your Circumstances

"Ouch!"

"What’s the matter?"

"I didn’t realize that the stove was hot."

Avoidance of pain. God has created us this way. That’s good! Because they have no nerve endings to detect pain, lepers are unaware of such harmful physical stimuli and so they often injure their appendages because they unknowingly put them in harm’s way. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for paraplegics to accidentally scald themselves with overheated bath water.

Our tendency to avoid pain holds true in the areas of our mind and emotions as well. Most of us can identify with plugging our ears to avoid hearing something or closing our eyes from painful scenes. One time we took Pres to see "A Hundred and One Dalmatians." When Cruella DeVille was trying to catch the puppies to make herself a fur coat, Pres hid his head behind the seat back. I remember it well because it was his thirty-sixth birthday.

We just naturally develop self-protective measures that we bring "on line" when we encounter a painful circumstance or the potential for one. If the pain escalates, we crank up our defenses, whether they be fight, flight, denial, compromise, projection, manipulation, you name it. But, most of these are techniques of the flesh, generated to take care of dear ol’ numero uno. And any time we depend upon our own flesh for survival, we cross over into the sin column (Jer. 17:5).

Most of us have spent time thinking about how peaceful the Garden of Eden must have been before Adam and Eve went independent and decided they’d run the garden their way. God had warned them that the day they made that choice all hell would break loose on earth—and it surely did. That "very day," the earth became a planet where painful things could and would happen. Humans have lived with such circumstances ever since, some of their own making, some not.

Our task in suffering

Question: Is it our job to learn how to dodge the pain or the circumstances that have the potential for pain? No. We are to press on to know God and trust Him to deal with that. Certainly we’re admonished to be wise as serpents on earth, but we must learn that God specializes in making silk purses out of sows’ ears, even those of our own making. He will work on our Christian maturation right smack dab in the middle of our painful or overwhelming circumstances (1 Pet. 1:6-7). In fact, such circumstances often serve as a tool for Him to make giant strides of progress, whereas He’d previously been limited to baby steps (Jas. 1:2-3).

Tell me, would Joseph have been better off by staying down on the farm where his dad could finish the job of indulging him as his favorite? His older brothers were jealous of him, and it’s no wonder. Would Joseph have been better off if a tornado had taken them out? Would this have resulted in Joseph’s being better equipped to reign on earth and eternally with Christ in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 3:21; 22:5)? Or was it the very act that his brothers had meant for harm that God used for Joseph’s, his extended family’s good, and even our good (Gen. 50:20)?

Would Moses have been better to bypass defending the Israelite and instead wait until he could ascend to the throne? Or did God take that "apparent" faux pax and use it to prepare him for a much greater earthly purpose and even his eternal reign with Christ? Moses’ booboo happened when he was forty. Check in on him at age sixty as he calculated how small his Social Security check would be. As he approached retirement, might he spend some nights tossing on his bed? He was clueless about his coming role as Israel’s deliverer as well as his eternal reign, much less that God was using his circumstances in the desert to prepare him. Israel’s deliverer?! Reigning with Christ?! What a joke! He’d blown his life and now he was paying for it! Do you suppose he spent time regretting the day he’d killed that Egyptian? Sure. He had his struggles. He wasn’t made of cast iron. He had emotions.

The prayers of the suffering

And how about your prayer life when it comes to your circumstances? Does it contain large doses of appeals that He would keep bad circumstances from happening? Or do you tell Him that you’re in agreement with whatever He allows to come your way that will best conform you and your family to the image of Christ? Look what God says about the circumstances Joseph, Moses, and so many other Israelites experienced: "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction" (1 Cor. 10:11). Gang, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to understand why God lets us experience some tough circumstances. There is no Plan B for conforming us to the image of Christ.

"And we know that God causes all [circumstances] to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). If this isn’t the most misquoted verse in the Bible, it’s a contender. When quoted alone, Rom. 8:28 gives Satan an open door for questions such as: How could a loving God let this circumstance happen to me? How can anything good come out of this circumstance? Why did God let this circumstance happen to me when I try so hard to serve Him? Why don’t bad circumstances happen to hypocrites? Why didn’t You let Saddam or Osama get this cancer? And so on… But, by reading 28 and 29 together we see that each of these questions becomes moot (of no practical importance). Verse 29 says: "For whom He foreknew (that’s us), He also predestined (God’s going to make it happen) to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren." Folks, God is hard at work in every new creature in Christ (Phil. 1:6; 2:13). He says He intends to use all of the circumstances that come into our lives to "conform [us] to the image of Christ." God doesn’t cause all of our circumstances, but uses them as tools to accomplish His altruistic best for us. God is not the author of evil (Jas. 1:13).

I have found great freedom in giving God permission to let my worst nightmares come true. That’s right. I may as well because I can’t stop them and the devil can’t make them happen without God’s permission (Lk. 22:31). Why morosely ponder such ideas? Why not put them into the hands of the One Who loves me most, Who is most powerful and Who is in total control? This way the devil loses his advantage of putting his "What if?" spin into my mind about my circumstances. When he sends that junk mail, I just say," Oh, rain on you! Not my problem. Go tell it to my Dad." I know that Christ in me and through me will handle any circumstance that Dad allows to come into my life, and that God will use all of them—the good, the bad and the ugly—to conform me to the image of my Beloved Savior. You and I are His precious projects! I ask you, what could we possibly desire that would better benefit us for reigning both here and eternally?

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.