I was talking to a friend who mentioned to me about a mutual acquaintance who has met some misfortune and is suddenly dealing with some difficult physical challenges. He has landed in a place he does not want to be—an assisted living center. My friend reported that this gentleman is struggling with God. He is angry and showing it. He is saying things like, “I can’t believe God would let this happen. If He really is a good God, why would He let this happen to me? If He really loves me, why? I don’t think I can trust Him or believe.”
His life is now laying before him. He is scared, feels out of control, doesn’t know if his life will ever be the same. He doesn’t know how much time he may have left. He believes it is unfair. (As I write that, I can’t help but think—he was in this same position before he got sick; he just didn’t acknowledge it. All of us are in that place. We don’t know how much time we have left. Our “control” is an illusion.) But he is consumed with the thought that he doesn’t deserve to be in this place—that it isn’t fair.
Interesting. From my exposure to this friendship, I hadn’t heard about God before. Everything spiritual was very superficial, and this gentleman mostly did life on his own. On an ordinary day, he didn’t give any thought to how much time he had left, and how good God is. From what I have observed, he has given very little of his time, talent, and treasure to the things God cares about. His life was not noticeably committed to the values and presence of God, not even in his conversation, until this happened.
It got me thinking. This isn’t the first time I have heard this kind of bitter, disillusioned talk. And virtually every time, the people who said God was treating them badly and they didn’t feel like they could trust Him were the ones who hadn’t trusted Him with their lives, resources, dreams, and opportunities in the good times. This talk has always come from someone who invested little in God’s work, gave little thought to God, yet is now expecting or even demanding that if God is God, if He is a good God, He must pay attention to them and change their circumstances.
On the other end of it, people who have invested heavily in the kingdom of God have a completely different attitude. People who trust God with every minute of their lives in the good times face hardship in a completely different way. Why?
In both cases it goes back to their perspective. One has an earthly perspective. The other one an eternal one. One is arrogant, one is humble. One feels entitled, one feels blessed.
James addressed this. He said, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).
Moses watched hundreds of thousands of people die in the wilderness over 40 years. He said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer when she had been living a very active and healthy life. It was shocking to all of us. She left this world quickly, with just eight months between her first doctor visit and her death. Numerous people said to her, “I can’t believe this has happened to you after the way you serve God and people. I would think He would let you live for many years.”
Mom would then share with them HER thoughts. She would say, “Oh, I ask ‘Why NOT me?’ Hardship comes to everyone in this life. God has never promised to keep me from hard times, but to be with me in them. He has promised me heaven. All my life He has proven Himself to be good to me. I will not doubt Him now.”
We spend a lifetime shaping our perspective by our choices. Then a day comes when we discover our perspective has shaped us. We see our life and our death through the lens of our choices and investment up until that time. We have peace, or struggle, based on the perspective.
Jim Elliott, martyred young for the kingdom of God, shared his perspective shortly before his murder: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
We make our choices, then our choices make us.