God is at work in our lives. All the time. The question is not whether God is at work; it’s how aware we are of His work.
Now there are times when that awareness is very acute. Opportunities open up; events align; things seem to just fall into place and we praise the work of God in doing what is obviously only attributable to Him. But then there are other times – painful times – when it’s hard to see just what God is doing. We might believe God is at work, but we can’t see how through the fog of disillusionment and disappointment.
But time helps with that, doesn’t it? We get a little time and space between ourselves and a season of pain, and we have the benefit of looking back on what was without living in the middle of it. And yet even with the benefit of time, there are two mistakes we might make when considering the work of God in our lives:
1. The error of non-reflection.
The first error we might make is that of non-reflection. We might never look back over the course of our lives and think, even minimally, about the way God has been working in and through us over the years. We might never consider just how many things had to align, how many circumstances had to be brought together, or how many details had to fall just right in order for things to happen as they did.
We might never seek to appreciate the vast wisdom of God, who is always working in big and small ways, and somehow always working for our good even when it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. We might just continue on our way through life, only thinking about what’s directly in front of us and never looking back at what has been. If we make this error, then our faith will suffer, because one of the ways we gain confidence in God’s work in the present is by seeking to appreciate His work in the past. Our faith in what is to come is bolstered, especially if what’s to come is going to be a season of difficulty, by reflecting on the faithfulness of God throughout our lives up to that point. In looking back, we will see how God was weaving together the tapestry of His good will in our lives, even when times seemed dark.
But if we don’t ever take the time to reflect on what was, we will live with a sense of anxiety about what is to come.
2. The error of presumption.
But the opposite error is also possible – that is the error of presumption. We might spend a significant amount of time looking back at our circumstances. And we might gain an appreciation of just how intricately God worked in the midst of our circumstances. And at the end of that time of reflection, we might pronounce with certainty: “Now I see what God was doing!”
But this, too, is an error; not because God wasn’t working during our past, but because we are presuming to know the totality of what He was doing.
Who do we think we are to make such a statement? How deep do we think our insight goes? How much stock are we placing in our ability to know the mind of the Lord? How much hubris does it take to think that we perfectly understand the ways and will of God? The truth is that we might be able to have a slight gleaning of what God was doing, and yet we cannot even begin to imagine the complexities of everything He was accomplishing through those circumstances. Let’s not make that error either.
Let’s instead take the posture of humility and gratitude. It’s the attitude that recognizes by faith that God is indeed at work for our good and His glory, and let’s be thankful that we can have a glimpse of how that is worked out. But let’s also be humble enough to recognize that we cannot know everything He was doing. And when we adopt that posture, we will say along with Paul as we look back over our lives:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom. 12:34-36).
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