For the first few weeks of each new year, a plethora of “Best Moments of” lists fill our newsfeeds and headline the segments on slow news days.
- “Best Sports Moments of 20__”
- “Best Photographic Moments of 20__”
- “Best Election Moments of 20__”
- “Best Entertainment Moments of 20__” (would that be the same thing?)
- “Best Literary Moments of 20__”
The stories are entertaining, but none of them have any relevance to me. Certainly, nothing I’ve done will make any “Best of” list. My life is a dirty laundry pile of mundane moments, a life that, now in empty-nesting retirement, has dwindled to days and days of meaningless.
In God’s economy, however, there is nothing too small to be considered inconsequential. As mortal beings, we are limited to space and time and tend to measure value by material heft or emotional significance. God’s perspective transcends the limits of human scales; in fact, because he is God, everything from him has merit and value. He is the I AM, the beginning and the end. ”For from him and through him and to him are all things,” Paul writes in Romans 11:36. And to the crowd at the Aeropagus, he said, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
There is no act, duty, conversation, wait, silence, casual glance, nothing at all, which fails to resonate with the weightiness of God’s purpose. No matter how tiny your life seems, every single second of it is weighty with the work of God. He—God of the universe, protector, guardian, governor, savior, redeemer, creator—is fruitful in all he does. His hand stirs the waters of his works of providence more deeply than any of us can see — and yet, for the sake of his own glory and our comfort, he occasionally provides us glimpses of his amazing goodness demonstrated in his sovereignty.
I know the temptation there is to feel the drudgery or the wastefulness of life:
- To the mama cleaning up spills and washing diapers, and sterilizing bottles;
- To the homeschooler reviewing the same math lesson again and again;
- To the student juggling assignments and indecipherable instructions, and incomprehensible lectures;
- To the laborer, punching a timeclock or overseeing thousands;
- To the retiree, watching the clock until an appointment or a TV show, or bedtime punctuates the day;
- To the bedridden who wonders if anyone remembers his existence;
- To the trafficked, the debtor, the barren, the exiled, the confused, and the mourner;
- The King sees; he knows. His storehouses of snow pale in comparison to his treasuries of compassion and care.
There was a king who didn’t see. The foolish king of Persia, whose vision was so marred by corruption and lust, was oblivious to the threat to his beloved queen. Intrigue and schemes wound their way through his court, and it appeared an act of great magnitude would be necessary to save Esther and the Jews. (The Book of Esther)
But it started with a whisper overheard. There’s no coincidence at all. Esther’s uncle heard the plot to assassinate the king because it was a part of the overall divine plot to manifest the majesty and glory of God’s sovereignty over the welfare of his people. God determined they would emerge from this “near escape” with greater confidence in his trustworthiness, with more solid assurance that he never forgets his own.
Alexander Carson writes in Confidence of God in Times of Danger: A Study of God’s Providence in the Book of Esther:
The great design of the book of Esther in the Holy Scriptures is to display the wisdom, providence, and power of God in the preservation of his people and in the destruction of their enemies. We learn from it that the most casual events which take place in the affairs of the world are connected with his plans respecting his people, and that the most trifling things are appointed and directed by him to effect his purposes. It decides a question that philosophy has conversed for ages and will never fathom; recording a number of events as the result of man’s free will –- yet evidently appointed of God and directed by his providence. From this book the believer may learn to place unbounded confidence in the care of his God in the utmost danger, and to look to the Lord of omnipotence for deliverance when there is no apparent means of escape. It demonstrates a particular providence, in the minutest things, and affords the most solid answer to all the objections of philosophy about this consoling truth.1
What God does is critical, essential, and important. To consider anything he does as anything less is to cheapen His work. Ephesians 1:11 affirms: “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”
Says Spurgeon on the above passage:
It is most important for us to learn that the smallest trifles are as much arranged by the God of Providence as the most momentous events! He who counts the stars has also numbered the hairs of our heads! Our lives and deaths are predestined, but so, also, are our sitting down and our rising up. I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam, does not move an atom more or less than God wishes. I believe that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its ordained orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens. I believe that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is as much steered by God, as the stars in their course. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebush is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence. The fall of a leaf from a poplar tree is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche!2
We expect happy endings: the enemy foiled, the good guy raised to power, the kids grown up to spiritual maturity, the laborer’s travail rewarded, and the oppressed relieved. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. It’s tempting to believe we have been stuck with a world that doesn’t play along by the rules: the enemy gains power, the good guys are slandered and persecuted, the kids struggle with afflictions and temptations, the laborer loses his job, the oppressor advances his agenda. (This is not how happy endings are supposed to go!) The challenge lies with our perception of the results and properly accounting for the One who defines what is successful and what is good.
Instead of anticipating pride and satisfaction in the hard-earned results of our stoic determination in order to get through today—it is, after all, what we are owed!—we ought to treasure today, this season, this hour, and this minute, because it is a moment God has created and delivered into our hands for the sake of his purposes and for his glory. That is more than enough to make it good.
I remember a friend’s daughter, whose leukemia had returned, and was in a coma in hospice care. I loved this girl, and I loved her mom, and I ached for her grief and worry. And I prayed for divine intervention, and I prayed for renewed health, and I prayed for relief. I heard the sweet, hopeful prayers of school children, and I could almost echo the wishes of others who said what she was going through was so terrible.
But mostly, I prayed that I wouldn’t presume that I knew which was best in God’s final scheme. I’ve always wondered about a believer’s experience in an altered state, such as in a coma, in light of the words of Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” While it is good to plead for and esteem health for all of God’s image-bearers (just as we ought to rally for relief for the image-bearing oppressed and rescue for the image-bearing enslaved and sustenance for the image-bearing hungry), I wonder if we begrudge believers sweet communion with the Spirit in groanings too deep to understand by demanding that God show his power by granting visible results now.
Joni Eareckson Tada talks about how suffering’s gains come in non-tangible ways:
I keep thinking about 1 Peter 2:21: “To these hardships you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” Those steps most often lead Christians not to miraculous, divine interventions but directly into the fellowship of suffering. In a way, I’ve been drawn closer to the Savior. . . . The greater thing is not the miracle; it’s the advancement of the gospel, it’s the giving of the kingdom, reclaiming what is rightfully Christ’s.3
How does God govern the affairs of my life in every day? How does he enter into the details with the good of all who are called in him and bring it all to fruition? This is the miracle Joni is talking about, that the good news of Jesus’s reconciling and restoring acts of atonement and resurrection is reflected in the tiny minutiae of stories like mine. How could a minute be mundane if his gospel is in it?
“God is the Lord of human history and of the personal history of every member of His redeemed family,” writes Margaret Clarkson in Grace Grows Best in Winter.4
Love this minute, and glory in the gospel work the Lord is doing in it.
- Carson, Alexander. Confidence of God in Times of Danger: A Study of God’s Providence in the Book of Esther, 2014.
- Spurgeon, Charles. Spurgeon’s Sermons on Ephesians, 2014.
- Clarkson, Margaret. Grace Grows Best in Winter, 1985.
- “Joni Eareckson Tada on Something Greater Than Healing,” by Sarah Pulliam Bailey. Christianity Today, October 8, 2010.
Laura Miller is a wife, a mom of 4 adult children, and a freelance writer and editor who lives outside of Pittsburgh, PA, happily empty-nesting with her husband. Her loves are reading classic literature, leading Bible studies, mentoring women, relaxing by the water as often as she’s able to, and enjoying her hound dog and her family (not necessarily in that order). She has written for The Gospel Coalition International Outreach and currently posts on her own blog, #thereyougothinkingagain.