“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32
At the end of a scrumptious meal prepared by my sister-in-law, my husband declared, “Jill, we should hang a banner in your kitchen with an inscription that reads ‘Never Disappoints…Always Exceeds Expectation!’” Everyone gathered around the table wholeheartedly concurred. Later on, I thought how wonderful it would be if that script could be a caption for all of life. How absolutely perfect if life never disappointed and always exceeded expectations!
Unfortunately, that is not the case. More often than not we echo the phrase our friend Scott Melby taught us years ago: “Life is hard. Then you die! Any questions?” Undoubtedly we are left with hundreds of questions; the disciples in that boat in that storm in Mark chapter 4 must have had a few questions, themselves. “Jesus, why did you allow us to get in this boat in the middle of this storm? Why are you asleep when we are perishing? Why are you acting as if you do not care what happens to us? Why don’t you do something, and do it now?”
Pastor Stephen Maphosah, who serves with Awana International in Zimbabwe, has taught that the disciples were overcome by what they could see and were oblivious to the fact that Jesus was right beside them the entire time. Usually our problem escalates out of control when we, like the disciples, allow the storm around us to move and take up residence inside of us.
Romans 8 directs us down a path where the storm cannot overturn our vessel, where the raging seas and ferocious winds are not capable of capsizing our lives. Throughout this chapter, the apostle Paul reminds us again that when God allows hardships in our lives it does not mean that he has abandoned us on any level. Suffering is part of the equation, and it will add up in the end because the Lord is the one in charge of the equation’s outcome. There is purpose, meaning and reason to what he allows, but he is not compelled to explain his reason. In fact, God never needs to explain himself at all.
We are his children, but throughout the ages he has allowed some of his favorite children to undergo hardships. Study the lives of Abraham and Joseph; consider the route he asked Ruth and Daniel and Esther to travel. When he asks us to face hardships, he is treating us like some of his favorite children, too.
Paul asks us to “consider” that the heavy toll of what we are facing now is being outweighed in every way by the glorious gains God is producing through them. His Word confirms this truth in a thousand different ways: “The Lord never disappoints. He always exceeds expectation!” That’s a banner to hang high over all the days he gifts us with on earth.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell