By Kevin Budd
It seems to me that if I could have my way, I would like my life to be trouble free. I welcome challenges, like learning a new skill, or thinking through a different way of understanding something. But I really don’t want any real problems. Uncertain situations or circumstances that involve the possibility of real pain, significant loss, genuine confusion, actual hopelessness, discouragement, fear, sadness. I work pretty hard to avoid as many of these things as possible. And I work inside to keep myself convinced that I am never in any real danger from any real thing. Like I said, I prefer a trouble free existence.
But it turns out that that is not the life that the Lord has planned for any of us. And that is for good reason.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”
And he got more specific saying, ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” I am a subscriber to both Terminix and ADT, in the hopes that the moths, vermin, and thieves will leave me alone. But none of those things is really fool proof. And, of course, even if you manage to avoid one set of problems—if it's not one thing, it’s another.
But my real point here is not that the world is dangerous, or even that we have to expect that at various points significant things are going to go wrong. I am wanting to assert the truly nutty thing, that though it is good to seek to avoid problems, and though we would like to steer clear of them altogether, we are actually better off with things the way they are. If we could be fully confident that disaster would never befall us; if we could find a way to avoid times of pain, and loss, and hopelessness; I suspect that we would likely not turn to God at all. And that would be the greatest disaster. That would be the loss from which we could not recover. That might leave us more comfortable, at least for a season, but we would in fact be truly hopeless. A French mystic once wrote: “O my brethren and friends, what a horrible thing it is to draw one’s life from God and yet not to love him!” And so it is. In more ways than the seemingly safe and apparently self-sufficient can begin to imagine.
So here’s a suggestion: Go ahead and try to reduce the likelihood of pain and loss and sadness. Only a fool would not. But also, always remember that, “If it is not one thing, it’s another” ought not to be a statement of resigned complaint or hopeless despair, but rather of gratitude for the tough-minded grace of God. He knows that above all we need to be living from a place of confidence and trust in him. That is where we are designed to be. It is from that place that we can truly thrive. Of course we want to thank God for his mercy and goodness and protection that sustains our lives every day. But we also want to always remember that he will be enough even when in his wisdom he lets something through the wall of protection he provides. And anything that reminds us of our vulnerability can help us rely a little more fully on him, if we will receive it as a indication of his grace.