When I get fearful about my life and the future, my thoughts of God are small.
I had a terrible nightmare last night. When I woke up, all I really remembered was that I had been horribly humiliated and embarrassed multiple times in the dream — and that in the end I had to frantically rescue family and friends from my house that was about to catch fire. It finally erupted with a huge explosion, and burned to the ground as I fell on my side and wept.
I woke up with tears in my eyes, so thankful it wasn't real.
It was just a dream, but I know many people who seem to find themselves living in a reality that forces them to simply drop to their knees and weep. There is nowhere to turn. There seems to be nothing holding them any more. For them, the turmoil of my vivid dream is their vivid reality.
Why is a middle school kid named Tyler one day a healthy and happy kid, and the next day in the hospital, gasping for his next breath and finding out that he has cancer? Why does someone like my friend Matt pray and pray and pray, then lose his wife in the battle against cancer?
Why am I sometimes frozen by fear of the future, unable to make any decisions or trust God?
To the human eye, so much of this life does not make sense. It just seems to be full of confusion, uncertainty, and sin.
And you know what?
King of Confusion
But get this: God is not a God of confusion!
Yet I often find myself confused. And I'm not talking about the kind of bewilderment you get sitting in the back row of a calculus class, but a much deeper confusion.
I remember a time I was at my local library with my mom when I was in elementary school. It was awesome, browsing through the aisles of books and reading the titles. Then I realized that my mom was nowhere to be found. I was terrified. I literally felt like I was a rubber ducky in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, just drifting nowhere with a frozen expression on my face.
I would do anything to avoid that feeling, a feeling I often get during this tumultuous life.
Here's the truth:
Satan is the king of confusion.
He relishes the lost. The confused. The soul-dying, bitterness-plagued, heart-wrenched men and women who are consumed with circumstances out of their control. He loves it when they continue desperately trying to change those circumstances on their own.
But we can all be encouraged. Because, get this: God is not a God of confusion.
Here are a few more truths that I think we all need to hear when it comes to struggling with confusion about our lives, particularly as it relates to our futures.
God has clearly told us what we are to be doing.
I'll be honest with you. I hate it when people tell me this. I used to despise it, because it just didn't seem helpful to say that God has told me clearly what I'm supposed to be doing. I know he's "told" me what I'm supposed to do, but he hasn't really "told, told" me the details, which is what I really want to know.
I realized this craving for details is evidence of pride in my own life.
That's right, it's pride again.
I want to know — and think I need to know — the details of my life and future. But only God knows those details. And when I want to get access to that file, I am in reality saying I want to be God and that I could do better if I was God. I love what J.I. Packer says about our thoughts concerning God.
"We are a modern people," he says, "and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God."
It's true. When I get overly anxious about my life and the future, my thoughts of God are small. I think very little of his power over my life and authority over all of history.
I thank God that I can rest in His sovereignty, and I can rest in what He has told me to do. God has known us before we were ever born. He holds all of history in His hands — and that includes my history.
I know that doesn't answer my specific questions, but it is a truth that I have to remind myself of every day: Christ sustains all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3). He has predestined us, called us, justified us, and will one day glorify us (Romans 8:30). God makes known the path of life to us (Psalms 16:11). And if we trust in the Lord, He will make straight our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Of course, it's not usually easy or clear. But I find so much peace in knowing an awesome and sovereign God who holds this world together.
He is a flawless God who has reached into human history and has sacrificed Himself for me, a flawed sinner. And He has told me what to do: I am to live a life glorifying to Him. In whatever I do, in any situation, I am called to be faithful. If I'm serving tables, I must be faithful and do it as if I'm working for the Lord. If I'm standing up in front of thousands of people and preaching, I must do it for the Lord. In all my life, in every season, God is still God, and His glory is the reason for which we live and breathe.
God is a God of wisdom, discernment, and contentment.
God loves the lost. The confused. The soul-dying, bitterness-plagued, heart-wrenched men and women who are caught with circumstances out of their control.
He loves it when they stop wrestling alone with those circumstances and lean instead on Him alone for their support, finding security and meaning in Him rather than in their circumstances, abilities, or opportunities.
All of my whining and fearful cries are silenced at the foot of the mysterious cross on which our Savior died. I ponder His unfathomable sacrifice and I gain a better sense of what I'm supposed to be living for. If I know all the details of my life, I'll never grow; I'll never trust on God and His power. I must desire to learn and grow in faith, and there's no possible way I will do this if I have an exhaustive knowledge of God's plans and purposes for my life.
In one sense, I need never be confused. But I should always be, in another sense, unstable. God has no need for people who are entirely put together. He doesn't want men and women who are so self-sufficient that they can get the job done in their own strength and stand strong in their own understanding.
The thing is, that so often is me. I'm always ready to jump up on the platform and speak my own words from what I think is my own wisdom and intellect. I trust so often in my own plans. I naively believe that my own plans will succeed because I'm talented, I'm intelligent, and I'm trained.
I want talent, intellect, and training to burn.
All I want and should want is Christ. All I want is to know that no matter what, He is good and He is in control.
Yes, He has authority over relationships. Yes, He has authority over cancer. Yes, He has authority over government. Yes, He has authority over my career. As Creator of all, nothing is beyond His control.
God does not want me to be confused; He is in control. God is Lord over all, Creator of all things, my Savior, and my friend. He is not out to get me or trick me or injure me. What He is doing is for His glory and for my good. And so circumstances need not confuse me.
I was speaking with a friend the other night on the phone who had questions about the future. That's always a tough topic to tackle. It's difficult because, well, I don't know the future. I don't know what's in store, or why God is doing what He is doing all the time. But I did know this: God was working for my good and most of all for His glory.
Specifically for my friend and me, I realized that often His glory is most clearly shown through two guys like us who don't have it all together, who aren't the most incredibly talented, and who don't always feel equipped for the tasks we've been given (then again, He might tell me to speak for myself!).
I've heard it said that God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called.
For the most part, I like that. The story of redemption includes a cast of men and women who we were flawed failures, only used by God for His glory through His power and mercy and grace.
I find myself there as well.
So whether my house really burned down today, or I found out I have cancer tomorrow, or I can't figure out whom to date or marry in the future — God is in control. He holds all things in His hands.
I'm not going to lean on my own understanding, and I'm not going to allow fear to cripple me and force me to do nothing at all. I'm going to move forward with peace, confident in a sovereign God who is in control of a flawed failure like myself who is feebly striving to live for His glory.
Copyright 2010 Tim Sweetman. All rights reserved.