When we grasp that simple yet immense truth it can and it should impact the way that we process what happens to us in our lives and it should also affect the way we see the personal circumstances we face – be they good or bad! God isn’t bound by our circumstances, but rather He ordains and uses those circumstances to lead us, to speak to us, to reassure us of His presence with us and even to test us. When we look at our circumstances from that perspective we become ever more aware of God’s grace to us – even when things are hard. For what it’s worth, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1. When God’s moving – He moves in your circumstances too
Oftentimes when God is at work in our lives, there is often an acceleration of circumstantial grace that coincides with His purposes. A job offer. A ministry opportunity. Financial blessing. I still remember that when we were seeking God and becoming more and more convinced that He was calling us to move to Trevethin, we encountered an abundance of circumstantial grace that served to confirm what we were already feeling – it was time to move! Perhaps the most significant thing that happened came in the form of our home.
After finding a derelict playground in the heart of Trevethin and sensing that this place should be the epicentre of our gospel outreach I prayed “Lord, please establish a place of worship right here in Trevethin!” I then glanced over my shoulder to see a house, literally less than 10yards away that was for sale. We phoned up – it was sold STC. We were gutted…but didn’t despair. So you can imagine how we felt 4 months later when we received a call from the estate agents to inform us that the sale had fallen through and to ask if we were still interested! God had sovereignly over-ruled in the situation and was giving us grace – and boy did we know it! Not only was it a much better time for us to move on pretty much every level, but it coincided with us selling our house in St.Mellons to the first people who viewed it.
Obviously we went for it and that house is where we launched Hill City Church back in 2008. We would not have let a house sale alone confirm whether or not we were called to go somewhere, but God didn’t half use it to reassure us that we were in step with Him and that He was working with us and for us.
That was huge for us at the time!
2. When things are going bad – that’s not always bad!
We’re so quick to jump the gun on this one. Our natural tendency is to assume that suffering is bad and that God wouldn’t want this for us. Therefore when things are difficult we instantly assume that God wants us out of this situation – and we (wrongly) see this as His divine will for us. Examples of this would be as follows:
- I hate my job – God must be telling me to leave.
- My church doesn’t meet my needs – God wants me to find a new one.
- I’m suffering ill health – I should stop everything I’m doing.
- I’m struggling with singleness – God must want me to pursue a relationship at all costs.
These kinds of responses come from a place that sees difficult circumstances as inherently bad rather than an opportunity to prove out God’s grace. The Bible is chock-a-block full of stories of triumph through adversity, wherein the heroes stood strong in the midst of adverse circumstances because God’s will was for them to prevail, rather than to flee in the name of pleasure, ease and comfort. We were called to carry a cross, not a cushion, and God’s way is often the path of most resistance, not least resistance! The ultimate example of this is of course the cross of Jesus Himself. I for one am very glad that as the onslaught of the unfathomable sufferings of Gethsemane and Calvary began, Jesus didn’t see it as His Father saying “Son, suffering is bad – you need to get out of this situation asap!” When we look at our own adverse circumstances through the lens of biblical faith, they really do look different. Oftentimes we find that our extremities create the perfect opportunity for God to magnify His immense grace and wisdom through our lives.
- I hate my job – but I can glorify God by enduring patiently and working hard anyway!
- My church doesn’t meet my needs – I need to pray harder, serve more faithfully and trust God for change.
- I’m suffering ill health – I can teach a broken, desperate world how to suffer with the hope and dignity of Christ.
- I’m struggling with singleness – Praise God I am able to give complete, undivided attention to the cause of the gospel!
Your difficulties aren’t necessarily God telling you “get out at all costs!” He might just be saying “stand strong and trust me!”
3. Just because it seems right that doesn’t mean that it is
On the flip-side, when things seem to be going well this doesn’t always mean that we’re in the centre of God’s will. One of the best examples of this in the Bible is Jonah! After clearly hearing the Word of God to go Nineveh, he decides he knows best and heads off in the opposite direction to Tarshish. It’s always struck me that as he arrives at the Port he finds a boat waiting for him, with a bed chamber available for him and he even has enough cash in his wallet to pay the fare! 3 big ‘coincidences’ that might just have suggested to him that God was blessing Plan B! However, there’s a big fish that will readily testify to the fact that just because circumstances seem favourable – that doesn’t mean that you’re headed in God’s direction for you!!
Comfort and convenience aren’t always proof that God’s blessing you!
In conclusion then, looking to our circumstances alone and seeking to make sense of them ourselves is a dangerous way of discerning what God’s will is for your life because both your circumstances and how you feel about them will change on an almost daily basis. However, God can and does use our circumstances to lead and guide us and reassure us of His grace and active involvement. This is why using Scripture as our ultimate source of authority is so crucial when it comes to analysing the situations that we face. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, so we need to do life and interpret our personal circumstances with Him at the heart of it all!