Posted On April 16, 2020

It has become increasingly popular of late—you might even say a bit theologically cool and edgy—to downplay Christian promises as clichés, and to criticize those who claim and proclaim them as escapists, those in denial of the real world of grief and lament. There is no doubt that we have all heard Christian promises glibly stated, and pat platitudes mindlessly expressed. There is also no doubt that way too few Christians ever give themselves to true heart-wrenching lament. It is very hard to take seriously the pieties of people who never cry, who never ask, “Why?”, who never say, “I don’t know,” and who always have an ever-ready chapter and verse for every occasion. But the mindless recitation of God’s promises does not negate those promises. It only calls us to a better, richer, deeper, humbler, and sweeter trust in those promises.

 

One such promise and we need it in our present hour of crisis is that everything that happens for a good reason even when Satan and sin are involved. God rules and overrules everything toward a good and holy end. It is one thing and it’s a bad thing for everyone and his or her Aunt Matilda to assume without any actual faith in and love for the One who can make it happen, that “everything’s going to be okay” or that “there’s a reason for everything.” But it is another thing and it’s a good thing for those who know the God who made and sustains all things to know, even when the tears are long and the sobs are strong, that “behind a frowning providence God hides a smiling face” (William Cowper).

Scripture is strong and emphatic on this point: there is always a good reason for everything. Always. Yes, even when we do not know it, and cannot see it. No exceptions. But don’t take my word for it:

  • Genesis 50:20—“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…that many people should be kept alive….”
  • Psalm 119:67, 71—“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good…It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statues.”
  • Lamentations 3:25-27—“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth.”
  • Romans 5:3-4—“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…”
  • Hebrews 12:10-11—“…but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
  • James 1:2-4—“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18—“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
  • 1 Peter 1:6-7—“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
  • Romans 8:28-29—“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Each of the italicized words and phrases indicates a plan, purpose, and direct causative agency. God means for trials to produce, to prepare, to result in, and to work together for, our good. There is a Divine in order that behind every affliction we face. These hardly sound like clichés. Rather, they carry the weight and feel of granite-solid Divine promise; mighty assurances from the One who is strong and good enough to make it all happen. Child of God, you may and even must cry—for the world is broken and undone. But you need not flinch or falter—for it all will one day show itself to have a very good everlasting reason behind it. One day it’ll all make sense.

William Cowper writes:

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm

 

Deep in unsearchable mines

Of never failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs

And works His sovereign will

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take

The clouds you so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings, in blessings

In blessings on your head

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense

But trust Him for His grace

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face

 

His purposes will ripen fast

Unfolding every hour

The bud may have a bitter taste

But sweet will be the flower

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain

God is His own interpreter

And He will make it plain.

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