‘But I couldn’t see it at the time…’

Toward the end of last week, I was given yet another powerful reminder of how faithful God is to His people over the long haul, and how He so masterfully orchestrates all of the events of our lives such that He achieves the desired goal of sanctifying His people – which we often perceive as a future blessing – and simultaneously works to correct our course such that we are not given over to becoming self-righteous Masters of Our Own Destiny – “adjustments” that come to us as blessings in the here and now.

That’s something of a mouthful, but it points to what I think is one of the greatest mistakes we as Christians can make in terms of seeing everything that God is for us in Christ as something “way off in the future,” some sort of ethereal, other-worldly blessing that we are left to simply imagine and hope for when The Day of the Lord arrives. While it is true that the full and final realization of who we are in Christ will only occur when we finally see Him face-to-face (1 John 3:2), I think it’s critical that we grasp how faithful God is to pour out His blessings on His people right now, today.

The primary point last week came during a conversation with other Covenant students in a week-long cohort meeting, artfully painted onto the canvas of the life of a 75-year-old man. This man relayed a story from his distant past as a means of pointing to his lived-out belief that not all of the Lord’s blessings are immediately perceived as such in the moment; it is only in hindsight that we are able to appreciate how God uses pain and trauma toward His redemptive purposes. None of us much like to go through painful ordeals, of course, but how deeply satisfying to know – and live into – any and all trials when we can be supremely confident that God is using them to good purpose (Romans 8:28-29).

The conversation we had centered around Psalm 37, written by King David as an older man, looking back on his life and reflecting on all that God had done for him, even (or perhaps especially) during the “harsher blessings” that did not seem to be blessings at the time. The entire Psalm is well worth one’s time, naturally, but the verses that have been ringing in my ears for the past few days are as follows:

Psalm 37:23-26 (ESV)
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
   when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
   for the Lord upholds his hand.
I have been young, and now am old,
   yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
   or his children begging for bread.
He is ever lending generously,
   and his children become a blessing.

If you know the books of 1 and 2 Samuel at all, then you are well aware of King David’s life story and the many painful things he lived through. The incestuous rape of one of his daughters (2 Samuel 13:1-21), the murder of one son by another (2 Samuel 13:23-39), insurrection at the hands of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1-11), the death of an infant son (2 Samuel 12:14-18) and the humiliation of being chased out of Jerusalem by an army of rebels (2 Samuel 15:13-18). It’s worth noting, I think, that all of these griefs – and more – came to David by the hands of members of his own family. David had plenty of other enemies and issues, and God’s labeling of him as “a man of blood” (1 Chronicles 28:1-3) is well earned. All that to say that David did much violence to others and had much violence done to him over the course of his life. Truly, this particular man had “seen it all.”

And yet, even as he moves closer to his own death, with so much in the way of betrayal and bloodshed to look back upon, David can somehow catch a much larger view of God such that he is able to confidently proclaim that he (David) had never been “cast headlong,” and while he had seen so much of the ways of sinful men (including himself!) one thing he never had seen was the children of God begging for bread. Despite all of the sorrow and suffering that took place among his own children – Amnon, Tamar, Absalom, and the others – David can rest on the truth that God’s children will indeed become a blessing.

Much like David, this older brother in Christ I spoke with last week was also graciously given “eyes to see” God’s faithfulness in his own life. As he recounted how an event that had completely dismantled him a few decades prior had, in fact, been God’s blessing to him, he readily confessed that at the time, he couldn’t see it as such; in his limited view, it was purely an injustice. It was only in hindsight, seen through the lens of a larger life story, that he has been able to rightly view God’s faithfulness playing out in that long-ago difficult life circumstance and (importantly) repent of any and all remaining bitterness.

For me, few things bring biblical truth to life as memorably as the pictures of God’s loving hand working in the lives of people we come to know, individuals whose life stories testify to the faithfulness of God. Not just to King David and the Israelites in antiquity, but to Christian believers struggling to make sense of it all in 2013.

Yes, God has been faithful through the ages to preserve His inspired Word for every generation, and the measure of that gift alone is incalculable. He could have simply given us the life of David as documented in His Word and left well enough alone, and that would have been an overflowing of His mercy and grace. But far from stopping there, He continues to reveal His faithfulness in the lives of those all around us. The telling and retelling of how God chooses to use the circumstances of our own lives to bring the truth of His Word into sharper focus is yet another way by which we can praise Him for not leaving us to ourselves. The ongoing witness of changed lives, redirected agendas and confounded self-interest can, I think, rightly be considered His “Third Testament” for those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Great is your faithfulness, Lord. May we all be given eyes to see your faithfulness all around us.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
   “therefore I will hope in him.”

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