Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:1-5
It started out as a bunch of disorganized storms, and I thought, “Thank goodness! We need rain!” Then, it became more organized, made it to shore, and the rains began; and it rained and rained and rained. Again. As I watched the weather reports and checked flood gauges online, I thought of the fears of those who have flooded in the past rising alongside the relentless deluge. If I could say one thing about the destruction and devastation in the (literal) wake of flooding, it would be this: the great consolation, the great hope, the great promise, is that resurrection is coming.
In every circumstance in life, good and bad, wonderful and awful, the only constant we have is the triumph of the God Who loves us beyond measure. This world is fallen, and inevitably, it will disappoint us, whether in natural disaster, disease, sin, or evil. The fact that terrible events occur or that people do terrible things is not an argument against a good God. Rather, the very presence of utter devastation and unmitigated evil reveals how deeply this world needs to be saved – the whole world, all of creation, not just you and me.
When we pose the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” we inadvertently deny the most obvious need in all of creation: the need to be saved. Christians should never cede the basic premise that the world is broken. Scripture is abundantly clear that this time, this age, will come to an end one day. Failure to remember that makes us doubt God at the moment we need Him the most. Our hope is not in the ability to control forces of nature, nor is it in our ability to end diseases and prolong life. To the contrary, our hope is the glory of God, that is, in the ultimate promise of resurrection, both for us and for the whole creation. That is God’s glory, God’s triumph, and it can and should be seen in us.
The eighteenth-century hymn How Firm a Foundation has a stanza with these words: “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow. For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.” The image is that of Christ in the midst of the waters, bringing blessing at the worst moment, in the middle of deep distress. “Sanctify to thee…” God will make holy the trials we face and use those to make His strength and provision known.
The Gospel is counterintuitive. Too often, we confuse our own success with God’s blessings. Instead, Paul tells us that tribulations are the first step in our journey to holiness, the opening of the doorway that leads to lasting, authentic, unshakable hope. The world does not see things this way, but Christians have known this for centuries – ever since the Cross led to the Resurrection.
Every good thing I know of God, to the extent that I know Him at all, has been learned during the hardest times I’ve face and in darkest hours of my living. Although I would not willingly revisit any past suffering in my life, I would not sacrifice a moment of my experiences, regardless of how difficult or painful they were. For in the midst of disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and failure, I discovered a God of love, beauty, and faithfulness that I could never have conceived, no matter how much I studied. Tribulation is always the first step on the journey to hope. That’s not what we expect, but it’s true.
I hope you didn’t flood again. I hope you didn’t flood the first time! But if you find yourself in the midst the muck and filth of receding waters, now is the moment to remember why God sent His Son to save us. Really, when we look at our world, the need for a Savior practically resounds across the heavens. It’s devastating to flood, heart-breaking to lose sentimental treasures, and exhausting to recover. Sitting down and squalling over the situation is a perfectly reasonable response. But in the midst of despair, lay your head on the shoulders of your Savior. This is not your defining moment. There is a resurrection coming.
Praying for those overwhelmed by water and struggling with despair…
In Christ –Elizabeth Moreau