Then I Understood

When people who claim to believe in God consistently disobey Him, hurting us and those we love, this can be extremely frustrating, even debilitating, too painful to bear. (Ps 73:16) As we ourselves try our best to follow God, we naturally expect others in the Faith to do the same. But it isn’t so, at least it doesn’t appear to be.

Perhaps my biggest mistake in life so far, which I think I’ve been making most of my life, is expecting Christians to do the right thing, getting frustrated, bewildered and upset when they don’t, and trying to change them. For years, the appearance of sin in others who claimed to be believers has destabilized me, tempting me to bitterness and resentment.

If you find yourself struggling here, let me ask, would your pain diminish greatly if you knew the people hurting you and those you love are either [1] unbelievers, haters of God and His elect, living lives of willful sin, or [2] trying their best to obey God in their circumstances, such that if you could see what they do you’d be content that they’re doing pretty well, all things considered?

Regardless of appearances, this is, in fact reality: every child of God consistently tries their best to follow YHWH — and no one else does. Understanding this changes everything, at least for me. (Ps 73:17)

Yet even knowing this, it seems to take repeated experience over time to work it down into my soul as experiential reality (Ro 5:3): YHWH’s restraint is the only reason anyone’s remotely good (Re 6:4), and He has a reason, a perfectly coordinated plan, in absolutely everything He allows. (Ep 1:11)

Yes, God is good and His plan is amazing; we saints are going to rejoice in it one Day, but as He’s working it out we’re often in pain, and it can be overwhelming. He routinely allows very difficult situations in our lives, and He tells us to count it all joy. (Ja 1:2)

I think the reason we should rejoice in trouble like this is because a primary objective of YHWH’s plan is to glorify Himself in transforming His elect into His likeness (Ja 1:3), such that we rejoice in Him, living lives of purity and joy in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Php 2:15)esteeming others better than ourselves. God wants us to struggle through these difficulties with Him, with this singular objective in mind, as He works out his will in and through us. His plan works to achieve His end, conforming us more and more into His image, and it’s evidently the best way to do so.

Unbelievers are just unwitting pawns in this design; the enemy positions them in our lives as children of light such that we can’t tell one from another. (Mt 13:28-29) They don’t have any clue why they appear to be doing good, or why life seems to work for them without YHWH, but they’re content that it does, and this destroys them. (Pr 1:32)

The more fully I accept and internalize this perspective, accepting the reality of sin, even in those who claim faith in Christ, without becoming frustrated and alarmed, the less painful life will be. What remains is to cleave to JEHOVAH, walk worthy of Him, grow in love, sorrowing for the lost as they miss out on YHWH and His transforming work, acknowledging that I’d very likely be doing worse were I in their shoes, and praying for YHWH to be merciful to them.

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One thought on “Then I Understood”

  1. Best I can tell, most people aren’t believers, maybe 1 in a 1000 (Ec 7:28); the ratio might be slightly higher in the church, but not by much. People all around me are all just going with what they’ve been taught, and with what makes them feel good. Spirituality is a pragmatic thing for most that makes life better for them, seeking YHWH is not a reality in them. As C.S. Lewis said so well, there will be surprises in Heaven: who’s there, and who isn’t.

    Now, I’m NOT saying that any particular person is or isn’t a believer, we don’t know the hearts and it isn’t ours to judge, but bottom line is that we shouldn’t be shocked, surprised and/or frustrated when people we care about don’t do the right thing, and deliberately choose the wrong, and do so consistently; it’s their nature apart from YHWH. Sometimes it only appears to us that they’re doing this, but they aren’t; they might be confused, wounded or see something we don’t, and they really are doing the best they can in their situation, as a child of God. We can’t generally know for sure, and – thankfully – we don’t need to: this isn’t a problem we were meant to solve.

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