I try to live a life of control. I’m a planner, and like to live my life in a planned, orderly, and controlled manner. That’s just the way I’m wired. You may be like me, or you may live your life in a more impulsive manner. Either way, living a carefully planned life, or an impulsive one, we need to realize that we are not in control. That’s just not how life works. But while we are not in control of our lives, we can take comfort that God is.
Often, as I would walk into my workplace from the parking lot, I would look at the massive complex that I was walking toward and pray, “Lord, I don’t know what is going to happen today, but you do.” Our lives can be going along well, with everything proceeding as planned, and then something happens that we didn’t see coming. I remember that happening early on a Friday morning a few years ago heading to my weekly faith and work book club with good friends before a holiday weekend, only to be stunned just a few hours later when I got a call that my father-in-law had died.
This happened again when we got a phone call telling us that my Dad had been taken to the ER, and was going to be admitted with cardiac issues. In the days before this, my wife Tammy had commented after we had a few open days on our calendar, that she was thankful for those days because she knew that it would not always be like that. She wondered if we were being prepared for something.
You can substitute similar unplanned things that that have taken you by surprise in your life. We’re going along just fine, doing routine things in our daily life, with activities all planned out, and then something happens that we didn’t see coming. How are we to respond? Continue reading →
Recently I was reading Paul Tripp’s daily reading in his book New Morning Mercies and came upon this quote:
“The Bible tells you that real peace is found in resting in the wisdom of the One who holds all of your “what-ifs” and If-onlys” in His loving hands.”
This got me to thinking about our lives. We have many choices to make every day. Many of them are small – what to wear, where to eat lunch, what TV program to watch tonight, etc. – but some are quite significant. Think of the following significant choices you may have, or will, face:
Am I going to go to college, and if so, where?
Will I trust Jesus with my life and live as a follower?
Who am I going to date, or marry?
Where am I going to work, and live?
Am I going to have children?
How am I going to balance my career, family and church responsibilities?
A few months before I retired, a long-time friend said that he and one of my former leaders had been talking about me. Specifically, they were talking about why I had only progressed to the level of a manager in our organization. I could take that a couple of ways. First, that they believed I had the talent to have progressed further, and second, they were wondering why I hadn’t. I mentioned that I had made some decisions early in my career that may have impacted my career progress. For example, I chose not to relocate with the organization when that was the expected path for advancement in the department I was working in. Another key decision was to attend seminary, rather than pursue an MBA, industry or technical designations. A third decision was not to pursue a position a mentor had told me about because of the significant amount of travel it would require. Regardless, I told him that I had no regrets. I was at peace with how my career had turned out. My wife and I always prayed about major career decisions (Do we move? Do I pursue this job, in that department? etc.). Looking back at my life I can see God’s guiding hand and sovereign control throughout my career. Continue reading →
I’ve recently been listening to Alistair Begg’s excellent series on Esther and the doctrine of the providence of God (The Unseen God, Volume 1), and would highly recommend it to you. You can listen to it on the Truth for Life website here http://www.truthforlife.org/resources/series/unseen-god-volume-1-esther/, or on the Truth for Life podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes. It got me to thinking about how God has orchestrated events in my life, my wife Tammy’s life and my sister-in-law Teri’s life that were difficult and painful at the time, but upon reflection have turned out for good. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines God’s works of providence as “His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions”. The providence of God is simply God’s involvement in the world. Jerry Bridges defines providence as God’s “constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.”
Below are five events that I would like to share with you that clearly show the hand of God in our lives:
Three years into our marriage Tammy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After having it removed it would later return and she had surgery again a little more than four years later. Prior to the surgery, Tammy had achieved her CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) designation and had a career goal of as she calls it, “the 3 C’s – cash, car and clothes.” But her illness significantly changed her perspective on life and she turned to a life of volunteerism: A Catholic Worker house, a soup kitchen, hospice, our church and now as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), among others.
I experienced some difficult and challenging circumstances at work about ten years ago. Those circumstances, and John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life (along with the Bible which is the book that has the greatest impact on my life) were used to lead me to re-apply at Covenant Theological Seminary, eventually graduating last May.
Tammy and I started a church newsletter in September, 1998. We produced it monthly until the end of 2013. By 2013, the newsletter was averaging in excess of 30 pages! God then worked in events that led us to stop producing it as a church newsletter and change instead to a blog format with a greater reach. Now the blog has a much larger readership than the church newsletter ever had.
Those same events led my wife to leave a position she held for more than nineteen years. After seeking the Lord’s direction for her life for about a year, she felt called to apply to be a CASA, an assignment she has recently started.
My sister-in-law Teri, one of our guest bloggers, ran into difficult circumstances in a position that she had loved for years. Her energy and voice gave out after many years of teaching and she knew the Lord was saying she was done teaching the program. Her heart was still in it, but she could no longer do well what was required to maintain the program. This eventually led to her leaving that position, with much sadness. About a year later, after seeking the Lord’s direction, she was called to be the Director of the Spoon River Pregnancy Center – http://www.spoonriverpregnancycenter.com/.
These situations, and many more over the years, have resulted in pain, tears and strained relationships. But the Lord has used these difficult circumstances for good. I love the story of Joseph (and Alistair Begg’s excellent book on Joseph and God’s Providence – The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances). One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 50:20, which says in part:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.
So don’t lose heart dear people if you are going through dark days and circumstances that you never thought you would. God is in charge and He uses all things for good for His people:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)