God and Circumstances6 min read
Life is basically, in a simple definition, the sum total of our circumstances. Our accomplishments are successful responses to various circumstances and opportunities. Our mistakes are negative responses to our circumstances and opportunities. And if we are going to be faithful with the life God has given each of us, we must have a firm understanding of this subject. Throughout this article, the word “circumstance” could easily be replaced with “trial,” though not all references to circumstances are necessarily about trials.
I. God Is Not Defined By Circumstances
While we should desire to see God’s faithfulness in and through our experiences, we must also be careful that we don’t think His faithfulness is defined by them. They may prove His faithfulness, but they do not define it. When we think otherwise, we limit our view of God. After all, if we base our concept of Him on what we are going through, by that logic, we may have reason to doubt God if our current circumstance is trial. But that is never the case. Instead we must learn not to base our view of God on our circumstances, but to base our view of circumstances on God. One of these must be subjective to the other, and we must be sure that our view trials is subjective to the Truth of God’s Person. You see, our view of God in itself really does not matter unless it is fully based on His Word: what really matters is His own view of Himself, which is this: “Great is Thy faithfulness.” There it is – settled in Heaven: this is absolute truth. But what about circumstances that seem to contradict this? In that case, we must understand that contradiction is in the eyes of the perceiver, and what we may see as illogical may in fact be a basic truth in God’s eyes.
This is something which those in Hebrews 11 had to learn, wasn’t it? “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off… but now they desire a better country, that is, a Heavenly one.” God was faithful to them: this is fact. As to the perception of it, these Old Testament believers took it by faith on the basis of a non-circumstantial focus. Had their eyes been on their trials or even on God’s promises as opposed to Himself, they may not have been listed in this chapter. But instead they looked toward a Heavenly land and counted themselves strangers on earth. This was their secret. They trusted God, because they were God-focused, not earth-focused. Do you want to be faithful in trial? Then be persuaded of God’s faithfulness solely on His Word and “confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, for they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.” Have you confessed that?
II. Circumstances Are Defined By God
The first Scripture we see this proven in is 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tested above that you are able, but will with the test (temptation/trial) make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God may not remove the trial or temptation, but since He does make a way of escape, He shows that He is still sovereign. In that sovereignty, He defines circumstances by controlling their weight. We may not think that a certain trial is possible to bear, but if it comes our way, we can know that it is bearable. Of course, there is the possibility of forgetting our way of escape and being overcome by it. Now, this is not an escape from the trial, but from the burden of it. The focus in our verse is on the bearing of, not the substance of the test. This means our “escape” is actually the grace of God, which He says “is sufficient for thee: my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” And so, when you are in a difficult circumstance, don’t look at it as the absence of God’s favour, but as an opportunity for the presence of His grace.
Furthermore, circumstances are not only defined by God’s controlling the burden of them, but they are defined by God in that He works ALL of them together for good to them that love God and to them that are called according to His purpose. At first, we may not be able to see how something could be used for God in any possible way, yet thankfully we are not called to understand, but to trust. This is why the verse is directed to those “called according to His purpose.” We would not be called according to His purpose if there was meaninglessness behind anything that happens to us: in order for there to be a true purpose, all must work together for good. Even so, this is still God’s work, which we may not understand. And if He was obligated to show us His plan for our circumstances, He would not be God. His nature means He must know things that our pitiful minds will never understand. Yet He graciously gives us this: “All things work together for good to them that love God…” This is all we need to know – and thankfully so, because our minds would not be able to comprehend the vastness of His great power and workings in our lives.
III. We Can Trust God and Grow By Circumstances
God does not expect us to figure out certain things about His plan, and perhaps we will never know why He does certain things. But that is not the issue. The real issue is not to understand God’s plan, but to grow by what we do know of the circumstances. Even when we don’t know where to go in certain situations, we can still grow.
For example, James 1:3 says “The trying of your faith works patience.” This is not going, but growing even in the stillness. Furthermore, it produces contentment. It also sets our eyes on Heaven. It also give us wisdom. It also produces blessing. It also purifies our hearts from sin often. All this – but only if we are willing to grow properly, because often we don’t respond right and instead grow in bitterness. This is the danger of forgetting our way of escape: we can be overcome by the burden and fall deeper into sin and lukewarm Christianity. So then, when we approach a test of faith, we should fear the possibility of bitterness. But on the flipside, we should have confidence in our gracious Master, Who when we turn to Him will help us grow in His grace. A circumstance is an opportunity, and it is neither inevitably good or inevitably bad, though they do hold both tremendous danger and tremendous potential simultaneously. Our response to it is what determines the result.