All Things Working for Our Good

We all face times of affliction in our lives. Some of us deal with minor issues such as colds while others of us face major health concerns such as cancer. Still others of us face family issues such as divorce or a family member who has left the church. Others of us feel out of place at social gatherings whether at church or school. It might be because we’re introverted or because we don’t feel like we have a whole lot in common with others who are our age. Maybe all the guys your age are talking about sports and you are neither interested in Payton Manning’s latest touchdown nor are you particularly athletic yourself, so you sit on the sidelines waiting for a more interesting subject to come up. For some of us work presents problems. I worked in a kitchen at the corporate headquarters of a major company. Things there were okay for a while, but issues such as inefficient kitchen design, frustrating communication from management, seeing decent people get treated poorly came, and finally getting laid off all had their effects.

That was a difficult time for me. God led me through that and is still helping me make sense of it all today. I’m not the only one being helped by Him through a major trial though. Joseph was the son of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. He had a dream that his parents and siblings would bow down to him. Even Jacob thought he was crazy. One day Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers. They thought he would tattle to their father about the inappropriate things they might have been doing, so they eventually chose to sell him into Egypt. It was there that Joseph’s life took, what for him, were very bizarre and unexpected turns. He wound up being a slave in Potiphar’s household and from there was thrown in prison on a false charge. While languishing in jail, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker. Eventually he interpreted two similar dreams that Pharaoh  couldn’t figure out, resulting in him going from being a prisoner to being the second highest official in the land in the blink of an eye. It was in this capacity that Joseph met his brothers, who inadvertently bowed down to him. Later on he was reunited with his father Jacob. After his father died, Joseph’s brothers expected to killed  by him as a result of the highly wicked maneuver they had pulled many years before. Instead, Joseph has the following words for them: “But  as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive”(Gen. 50:20).

God used the treachery of Joseph’s brothers to bring him to Egypt to save many lives from starvation during a significant famine. God gave Joseph the grace to forgive his brothers and the ability to see how He worked evil out for his good. Job is another example of this. He was a man who “eschewed,” or avoided evil (Job 1:1). In one day he lost all of his earthly goods and servants. In addition all of his children were killed by a whirlwind and his physical health failed him. As if all of this was not enough, his wife told him to ‘…curse God and die”(Job 2:9) and his friends failed to comfort him in his time of grief. They told him that these afflictions were the result of his sin. This was not the case and was, instead, a trial of his faith. How did Job respond to this? He said to his wife “… shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In other words, Job knew that God had a hand in it and spite of his circumstances, he placed his firm trust, faith, and reliance in Him.. He said “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15) and “but he knoweth the way that I take, when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold”(Job 23:10).

God did bring  Job through those terrible trials. He had ten more children and he obtained more cattle and land than he previously had. In addition, his physical health was restored and God gave him the ability to forgive his lousy friends who failed to comfort him when he greatly needed it.

What about us? Is that our confession? Can we look at the trials in our lives and see His hand working all things for our good in it? Job had difficulties with this and so do we at certain times. As for me, I wound up working for the same company that I previously did but I changed positions and locations and wound up with a lower stress position. Additionally, in God’s good providence, I have been working at the Protestant Reformed Seminary two days a week with men who are one in faith with me and that has proved to be a very rich blessing. May God give us the grace to say with David “many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all”(Psalm 34:19)!

Kevin Rau

Finding Contentment apart from Circumstances

I am spending this semester in Ireland, studying abroad at the University of Limerick. I am incredibly blessed and so thankful to have this opportunity. I came to Ireland, expecting to have the most amazing experiences of my life. Everyone who I had talked to or whose writings I had read convinced me this was the greatest thing that could happen in my life, or so it felt like.

When I got here, though, all I really wanted was to go home. I really struggled with everything being a little bit different, and I became extremely discontented. Through the discontent, I thought, it will be better once I get settled into my own room, or once classes start, I’ll be fine, or I’ll feel better once I fall into a routine. I kept waiting for circumstances to change rather than finding contentment in exactly where I was at.

Since then, I have settled in and adjusted to Ireland. I truly love being here. However, God taught me an important lesson in those first few weeks. I realized that God never promised for the experiences He gives us to be fun or enjoyable. In His graciousness, He often gives us good experiences, but He doesn’t always do that. He only promises to do what is good for those who love Him. When I remember this, the circumstances, whatever they may be at the time, fade away, and God’s promises become enough.

When circumstances don’t feel rosy, or when life is just plain hard, I find a lot of comfort in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” He sees the big picture. He is God, after all. He knows everything that will happen to me in the rest of my life. He knows the people I will encounter in the next year. He knows the lessons I need to learn and the pain I need to experience. He knows these things because He is sovereign King, and He promises to do only good and always the best for His children because He is loving Father.

The chapter gets more comforting:

 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (vss. 10-11).

I love the way this is worded: as surely as the rain falls downward and not up towards heaven, His word will not return void but will accomplish and prosper in exactly what it was supposed to do. When God declares something for your life and for mine, it will happen the way He intended for it to happen. He sends these things to accomplish purposes in our lives.

Then, when we see that life is more than the circumstances surrounding us, we will see the promise of God’s purpose that will surely prosper. In light of that, we will “go out with joy, and be led forth with peace” (vs. 12). There is no remote possibility in heaven or in earth that God’s word will return to Him void. When life hurts and even when you feel like you just can’t take another breath, rest assured that the Lord will sustain you. “Cast you burden upon the LORD,” David writes in Psalm 55:22, “and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” In the middle of the storm, through the Refiner’s fire, and in hands of the Potter, whatever God is bringing you through and however He chooses to do it, He will never leave your side. He will accomplish everything in you that He set out to do, and He will not let you fall.

James goes a step further with this in the first chapter of his book. “Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse [trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). James also recognizes that God has specific purposes for the trials He sends. The general yet incredibly beautiful purpose is to make us perfect, entire, complete.

I studied that passage at a very timely point in my life, when I was going through one of the biggest trials in my life. Count my trials all joy, I thought, because they are God’s way of molding me into exactly who I need to be. In my mind, this was a picture of the Potter shaping the clay. The clay didn’t know why it needed a certain shape; it didn’t understand why it had to go through a difficult molding process and then through the fire. It needed all those things, though, to be perfect, entire, and complete for the purpose the Potter determined.

How can I be anything but content when I know I need what God sends my way? How could I doubt that these circumstances are necessary when God has promised and when God has never been anything but perfectly faithful? Circumstances are nothing but tools in God’s hands, although sometimes excruciatingly painful. Friends, remember through the circumstances that His ways are not your ways but are so much higher. Remember that He will not let you be moved in the difficult times. He can accomplish His purposes because He is Sovereign, Almighty God, and He will do it, without leaving you or forsaking you because He is our faithful Father.

Kelsey Kuiper

“Stand Still, and Consider”

How often do you talk about the weather? This is often one of the first things we comment on when greeting someone or the most common topic at work. Yet, how often do we think of the one who sends that weather to us? Of the one who forms those clouds, moving them where He wills, commanding them to provide rain or snow, a shadow of darkness, or to vanish and let the light shine down on us. God reminds us of His unmeasurable greatness and power in the weather through the words of Elihu to Job in Job 36 and 37.

Have you ever been cloud gazing and watched as a cloud goes from resembling an elephant, to the form of a dragon, which then dissipated into nothing? Have you observed the dark clouds of a storm coming in and felt the heaviness of it press around you as it grows in its looming properties? You see the brilliant lightning flash between the earth and sky and wait for the rumbling sound of the thunder to fill the space around you. Job 36:29 “Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?” Job 36:33 “The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.” The deep, rolling thunder strikes a certain fear with its great noise. Elihu expresses what many of us feel when a storm comes over our homes: “at this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place” (Job 37:1).

Elihu reaches further into the topic of thunder and lightning telling Job, “Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth. He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth. After it a voice roareth: he thundreth with the voice of his excellency: and he will not stay them when his voice is heard. God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:2-5). The hand of God in a storm, commanding the lightning to shine and the thunder to sound, all the while controlling each drop of rain to fall exactly where he wills it, is so much for us to comprehend all at once. We can only stand in amazement at the power of God expressed in a storm. “Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth” (Job 37:11-12).

God causes the water to evaporate and rise up from the earth and form fluffy, white clouds in the sky. He combines these vapors to form rain drops which then fall down upon the earth again, splashing into the cement, off umbrellas, and onto our windshields. “For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof; Which the clouds do drop and distill upon man abundantly” (Job 37:27-28). God waters the plants so they grow and bear fruit which we can gather and eat. He replenishes the rivers, making them full and giving of life. “For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance”  (Job 37:31).

Those who experience a winter season, we must remember in all our complaints about the weather, God gave us this weather with purpose. It is part of His will to give us a winter. Look at the snow and the beautiful designs of the frost and see God’s beauty and handiwork. It is God who designed each snowflake and formed the pattern of that frost which runs across the window and covers the ground. “For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength. He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work….Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north. By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened” (Job 37:6-7, 9-10). When there is a big storm we close our schools. If road conditions are exceptionally bad, our work places may close. We are forced to pause from our busy routines of life and take a look around us. We hear God saying to us “…stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14).

Kate Doezema