Several weeks ago, I had a wonderfully hopeful conversation with an older saint in our congregation. This is a woman who has known, and continues to know, significant difficulty and suffering in her life. She was kind and thoughtful enough in our conversation to ask me several questions about our life, family, and calling, and then shared with me some of the ways she is currently praying and thinking about her own circumstances. There was one phrase she used that, I think, is incredibly powerful. Perspective changing. A phrase that stands to change, if we take it in faith, the manner in which we move through seasons of difficulty in life. Here’s what she said:
“God has trusted me with this.”
Consider, for a moment, some of the other phrases we might use during a prolonged time of sickness, trouble, anxiety, or suffering:
- Why is God allowing this to happen?
- I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
- When will it be over?
I’m sure you could add your own statement to the list. And each of those other phrases are valid expressions of our feelings at a given moment; they can and should be expressed to the Lord. At the same time, though, the phrase she has chosen to adopt reflects an entirely different and mature way to look at things.
It is a statement of stewardship.
We often think of stewardship in terms of money. And that’s not wrong – surely the Bible teaches that we have been financially entrusted with funds, and it’s our job to manage them well for the sake of the kingdom of God. But stewardship is bigger than that. Consider, for example, Philippians 1:29:
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…”
“Granted” seems like the wrong word, doesn’t it? Because “granted” seems to indicate a kind of privilege. That puts a whole new spin on difficulty, because from this verse, it sounds as if in Paul’s mind, suffering is something that is entrusted to us. If that’s true, then we are stewards in this life of a lot more than just money.
We are stewards of experience. Both good and bad; both comfortable and difficult.
God grants us circumstances in our lives and we are to be stewards of those experiences. We are to learn from them, to comfort those in similar circumstances, and to mature because of them. Though we can usually only ask this question with some perspective rather than right in the middle of our trying times, we do well to consider: “Why has God entrusted this experience to me?”
Why has God entrusted this financial difficulty to me?
Why has God entrusted this cancer to me?
Why has God entrusted this difficult relationship to me?
Asking that question moves us from a victim mentality to being a person of action. Suddenly, we are able to move from the self-focus that is so pervasive during seasons of hardship and into the reality that God has not made an error. Even more, that there is some redemptive purpose both in our own souls and in the lives of those around us for these circumstances.
This is a hard statement to make, friends. It’s hard because it requires action on the other end of it. But it’s also a statement that recognizes both the love and the sovereignty of God in our circumstances. It’s a statement of faith in a God who is beyond what is visible and experiential, a statement of confidence in a God who has already proven his love for us at the cross of Jesus.
This is the statement the Christian can make. A statement of those who trust in God, and have been entrusted by God with these circumstances.