When tragedy strikes, many find it comforting to say, “God is in control.” They don’t mean that God caused the tragedy; there’s little comfort in that. They mean that somehow, someway, in the midst of hopelessness and despair, God has a plan and everything is going according to plan.
Without getting into the whole “God didn’t cause it, but He allowed it to happen” – an argument fraught with ginormous holes – I want to focus on one key element that is often overlooked in the discussion: God’s plan.
I believe the biggest stumbling point is a false understanding of what God has been planning since the beginning of time.
In order to begin to understand God’s plan, we should start with the end in mind: where does God want us to be after we die?
Almost universally, people who believe in the existence of God also believe in the existence of “Heaven” or “paradise” or “The Olive Garden.”
But what is heaven?
If you ask others, you will get some interesting answers. Some think we will be in the clouds strumming harps with angel’s wings on our backs. Others think it will be much like the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. I was told when I was a kid that it would be one long eternal church service.
None of those ever sounded appealing to me. Church services were long enough and heaven would be even longer?! That sounded more like hell to me.
I have never liked dirt. It is dirty and when it gets wet it is muddy. And then the worms and insects! Don’t get me started on dirt. Telling me I was going to grow a garden in heaven just like Adam made me want to wash my hands repeatedly just thinking about it. I can feel the dirt stuck under my fingertips right now.
Luckily for me, this is not what God has planned for any of us. His plan since the beginning was to reveal Himself to us in a deeper way than He ever had before. Adam was not supposed to run an eternal apple orchard. Adam needed to leave the Garden of Eden so he could understand God in a whole new way. This was the plan all along.
Think about this: how would Adam ever understand God if the only life he ever knew consisted of talking animals on a farm that never had weeds, drought, or enemies? With an easy life, when would he ever need God? And how would he ever understand God’s attributes? Without evil, he would never understand God’s holiness. Without pain, he would never understand joy. Without injustice, he would never understand grace and mercy. Without sin, he would never understand forgiveness and love and redemption and reconciliation.
When we start to dwell on the “here and now,” we start to get into trouble. God does not want you to be happy right now; our misery and disappointments are merely indicators that all that this world has to offer will never be enough. Only God can satisfy. As we seek to know Him more, we will catch a glimpse of what He has planned for us: a more complete understanding of Him than we could ever imagine.
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
(from Blessings sung by Laura Story)