We expect the happy endings: the enemy foiled, the good guy raised to power, the kids grown up to spiritual maturity, the laborer’s travail rewarded, the oppressed relieved. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. It’s tempting to believe we have been stuck with a world that didn’t play along by the rules: the enemy gains power, the good guys are slandered and persecuted, the kids struggle with afflictions and temptations, the laborer loses his job, the oppressor advances his agenda. This is not how happy endings are supposed to go! The challenge lies with our perception of the results and properly acknowledging the One who defines what is successful, what is good.
Instead of anticipating stoic satisfaction in order to get through today—it is, after all, what we are owed!—we must love today, this season, this hour, this minute, because it is a moment he has created and delivered into our hands for the sake of his purposes and for his glory. That is more than enough to make it good.
I remember a friend’s daughter whose leukemia had returned and she was in hospice care, in a coma. I loved this girl, and I loved her mom and I ached for her grief and worry. I heard the sweet, hopeful prayers of school children, and I could echo the prayers of others who lamented that what she was going through was terrible. And I prayed for divine intervention, and I prayed for renewed health, and I prayed for relief.
But I also prayed that I wouldn’t presume that I knew what was best in God’s final scheme. I’ve always wondered about the experience of a believer in an altered state, such as in a coma, in light of the words of Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” While it is good and right to plead for and esteem health for all of God’s image-bearers (just as we ought to rally for relief for the image-bearing oppressed and rescue for the image-bearing enslaved and sustenance for the image-bearing hungry), I wonder if we begrudge believers sweet communion with the Spirit in groanings too deep to understand by demanding that God show his power by granting visible results now.
Joni Eareckson Tada talks about how suffering’s gains come in non-tangible ways:
I keep thinking about 1 Peter 2:21: To these hardships you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.’ Those steps most often lead Christians not to miraculous, divine interventions but directly into the fellowship of suffering. In a way, I’ve been drawn closer to the Savior. . . . The greater thing is not the miracle; it’s the advancement of the gospel, it’s the giving of the kingdom, reclaiming what is rightfully Christ’s. (CT, 10/8/10)
No matter how tiny your life seems, every single second of it is weighty with the work of God. He—God of the universe, protector, guardian, governor, savior, redeemer, creator—is fruitful in all he does. His hand stirs the waters of his works of providence more deeply than any of us are able to see—and yet, for the sake of his own glory and our comfort, he does occasionally provide us glimpses of his amazing goodness demonstrated in his sovereignty.
I know the temptation there is to feel the drudgery or the wastefulness of life, especially in this time of stay-at-home orders, economic uncertainty, an invisible microbial enemy, the endless waiting for a positive turn in the news, the exponentially greater hazard for those in at-risk situations (whether health, abusive environment, trafficked, in poverty).
What God does is critical, essential, important. To consider anything he does as anything less is to cheapen His work.
In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. (Ephesians 1:11)
How does God govern the affairs of my life in every day? How does he enter into the details with the good of all who are called in him and bring it all to fruition? This is the miracle Joni is talking about, that the good news of Jesus’s reconciling and restoring acts of atonement and resurrection is reflected in the tiny minutiae of stories like yours and mine. How could a minute be mundane if his gospel is in it?
God is the Lord of human history and of the personal history of every member of His redeemed family. ~ Margaret Clarkson
Love this minute, and glory in the gospel work the Lord is doing in it.
This post is an abridged and updated version from There Are No Mundane Moments.