What if our definition of good is all wrong? What if, in our humanness, we reduce goodness to what feels, looks, or seems good when all the while, God has bigger things to say about it?
I have an autoimmune condition. Most of the time I’m fine, but sometimes I’m not. And ten years ago, I had a few of the worst weeks of my life. During those weeks, immediately following the birth of our baby girl, I was unable to carry on normal responsibilities. All I could really do was sit while my husband, family, and friends took care of our newborn, two-year-old, and four-year-old. If I moved my head much at all, my body would spasm, and let me tell you…it was unpleasant. It was bad. Awful. Angering. And all the other adjectives that describe a terrible situation. Physically, it was the worst time of my life.
It may come as a surprise that I can say with full confidence that this time of physical and emotional suffering was the best time of my life, spiritually. When distractions were removed and I found myself crying out to God hundreds of times per day, he and I grew closer, as relationships naturally do when given undivided time and attention.
The book of Isaiah was written seven hundred years before Jesus was born. But this prophet spoke prophecies regarding the coming Savior that unfolded exactly as stated, seven hundred years later. Isaiah 53:10 says this regarding Jesus:
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.
If you’re like me, that sentence gives you pause. We could discuss for days all the approaches to theology regarding God willing or not willing human suffering, but let’s lay that aside for now. The above verse states clearly that God’s plan was to crush Jesus. Crush.
Seem dramatic? I agree. But with this mysterious plan of God’s came the rescue of the entire human race.
And look at 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9. Paul says this in the New Testament:
We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
As a result of Paul’s crushing, he learned to rely on God. It may not sound worth it, but I assure you, it is. Paul says so and God says so. Our time on earth is only a blink of an eye compared to eternity in Heaven, so being Heaven-minded now has much greater benefits for us in the long run. We will never fully understand God’s ways, but one truth we can count on is this:
Good things come from crushing.
Maybe we don’t feel it, see it, or even believe it much of the time. But feelings don’t lead us to truth. Truth is truth, regardless of our thoughts or feelings. The truth is, going through intense difficulties refines us in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. As long as we don’t run the other direction, being crushed draws us nearer to God than any amount of church-going, praise songs, or study can. (And no, we don’t draw near to God because God has an ego problem and wants us to need him. We draw near to God so we can know on an intimate level his love, goodness, and guidance.)
This topic was inspired by a recent sermon by my pastor, David Wigington. In his sermon, which you can check out here, he said, “Crushing doesn’t destroy your gifts; it exposes them.” Truer words were never spoken.
When I was going through that health crisis a decade ago, I nearly felt like my life was over. I never dreamed of all God could do with me in the years to come. Suffering allowed me to experience what it means to rely utterly and completely on God, and because of it, I am now able to be and do things I would have otherwise never thought possible.
Suffering is never pleasant in the moment. Of course we want to avoid pain when possible, and I’m not implying otherwise, but when unpreventable suffering does come, if aligning our souls with God himself is what we gain, what could be better? Perhaps it’s time to rethink our perception of good.
Do you have any stories of how God used difficult things in your life to bring about good? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below – it’s so encouraging to read such stories! And if you want to dive deeper into David Wigington’s words of wisdom, check out his awesome book, God of the Long View. Highly recommend!