“We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s
love in happiness. We should instead
look for them in his faithful and
persistent work to conform us to Christ.”*
How like us to often confuse what is easy with what is best; to settle for crumbs of fleeting felicity when we can instead feast at His table and, like Mary, sit at His feet choosing the “main course” (Luke 10:42, MSG), “the good part” (NASB). But choosing the good part isn’t always a smooth path and our human bent naturally pulls away from embracing discipline or obedience or trust when it comes at the price of our happiness. We are, after all, inclined to look for time saving, pain avoiding ways to do just about everything (spoken as someone who, when given the choice, is all about simplicity). But I’m learning that, while this approach serves so well to effectively expedite a myriad of temporal tasks, in the holy work of heart work, there are no shortcuts, no alternate routes. It’s a lifelong journey, and often one that uncomfortably stretches us and asks that we take the long view of things.
Just when it seems we’d absolutely rather take the easy path, something profoundly deep at our core longs for real change and growth, like an indescribable ache that demands to be acknowledged and given a fair hearing.
Better to desire His good work
in our lives, even with questions
and honest reluctance
than to be stuck in a place where,
to quote W.H. Auden,”we’d rather
be ruined than changed.”
And so, God is always about the business of drawing us to Himself, patiently guiding His children into greater trust and dependence.
In this “faithful and persistent work”, He allows blessing to be mixed with pain, carefree days with adversity, all for the purpose of conforming us to Christ, “so that we may share His holiness” (Heb 12:10). After all, this is the highest good He could bring us.
It’s easy to be on board with the plan when we experience happiness and abundance in almost every way. Not so much in the hard stuff – especially when it’s prolonged and deep with no respite in sight. But in it all, we find reassurance knowing that “He never puts too much ‘salt’ of adversity into the recipe of our lives. His blending of adversity and blessing is always exactly right for us.” (Jerry Bridges)
Let’s set out today remembering this: wherever His love relentlessly pursues and shapes us, clouds and showers can never eclipse His presence on this journey to becoming more like Him. As we walk in the bright light of His providence and care, even on a stormy day we’ll see expressions of His love scattered all across our path, especially the path filled with ruts and bumps. Here’s a trip tip from one traveler to another, shared with me at a time when I too found it difficult to take notice – we likely won’t see His loving faithfulness if we aren’t looking for it. But as we consent to be changed, we realize these tokens are in fact hard to miss!
To remind us that He is a covenant making, promise keeping God, rain is often followed with rainbows. Not the stuff of unicorns or pots of gold, rather a truly beautiful expression of hope and renewal; an uncommon symbol of His trustworthiness and love. He will complete his good work in us (Philippians 1:6).