2020 definitely is one for the books. Especially for the Ruel family, it’s been one thing after another. One thing is always certain in times of trial – God is good and He is in this with us.
But what exactly is God doing in the midst of trial? Most of the time, we don’t know.
We know generally that He is working all things for His glory and our good. [Romans 8:28-29] Sometimes, we can get a little obsessed with trying to figure out exactly what it is God is trying to teach us in the middle of the trial, thinking that if we learn all the lessons quickly – He will end the trial.
It usually doesn’t work like that. God is doing BILLIONS of things at all times, and every once in a while we get to see a few of them.
On January 7, 2020 God saw fit to allow me to have been diagnosed with Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma, at the exact same moment that my wife was with her father in Florida as he was passing away.
Now, after months of grieving, 3 surgeries and weeks of radiation there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Has God taught me anything in this trial? Yes, absolutely. Is He still teaching me things? Yes, absolutely. I’ll share with you one of them.
As the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter, the temptation increases to find my contentment at the end of the trial. The lesson is this – contentment needs to be found in the midst of the trial, not when the trial is over.
I’m quite certain you are all painfully aware of another star player for 2020 – the global COVID pandemic that has literally shut the world down. This is like nothing we have ever seen – everyone working from home, stores and restaurants closed, schools shut down and moved to online learning, professional sports on hold, or playing to empty stadiums, churches not able to gather in person, have all exclusively moved to live-streaming their services.
Right now, as we are over three months into this COVID lockdown, what is the biggest question on everyone’s minds? “WHEN will everything get back to normal? I can’t take this anymore!” What are we really saying in that sentiment? I’ll be OK when everything returns to normal.
There is the cancer-COVID connection. The lie is this: contentment is found at the end of the trial, not in the middle of it. The whole idea of contentment is that we are at peace in the midst of troubling circumstances, not in the absence of them!
There is a very powerful verse in Proverbs that speaks to this truth –
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
(Proverbs 13:12 ESV)
If we keep setting our hope in what keeps getting pushed off…what is the result? A sick heart. If all my hope is set on how happy I’ll be once cancer is over, it’s the wrong place to put your hope. Because guess what? Setting my hope there is unrealistic, because it is inferring that once this is over, everything will be OK. That’s just not the case. Will life be easier? Sure. Will everything be OK? No.
When the COVID lockdown is over, will it be sweet? You betcha. Will everything therefore be OK? Nope. Things will still go wrong, trials will still come, fear, worry and anxiety will still come knocking.
So the biblical idea is to train our hearts to hope in what is sure, true, and eternal. To not hope in circumstances getting better, but to hope in the God who is behind the circumstances.
A biblical worldview is one that explains that in this life, things will never be totally OK. This world is broken and we see the symptoms of the brokenness every day in things like COVID and cancer. It’s broken because we rejected God as our rightful King and in so doing not only fractured our relationship with him, but opened pandora’s box and out came sin and all its effects. Sin, therefore, will always be infecting, staining, stealing some aspect of our earthly lives. To put all our hope then in this life, is to end up with sick heart.
So what should be the object of our hope? The biblical solution to sin – Jesus Christ – whose sacrifice is the only thing that can make “everything OK.” That through faith, we might experience a hope, a bulletproof hope, that goes beyond this life and what awaits us in eternity. The reality is that some things will never be made right in this life, but in Jesus, all will be made right in the next. COVID and cancer will be gone. My wife will see her dad again in heaven.
Therein lies our hope in the midst of trials, not that everything will be OK because the trial will be over, but we hope in Jesus when the trial is at its darkest.