“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NKJV
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:1-3, NKJV
A key question for each of us on our journey through life that we inevitably face is how are we going to handle setbacks when they come our way? As much as we’d all like to experience a Louis Armstrong “nothing but blue skies do I see” sort of life we are not promised that experience as our own lives often times starkly bear witness. In fact, Jesus graciously…yes, graciously…tells us in John 16:33 (NKJV) that we will experience suffering saying, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” It’s gracious because He doesn’t pull any punches and tells us straight up that life is going to be tough at times, but then He also reassures us that not only is His peace available to us, but that we should be of a positive mindset because He has taken the world’s best shot and come out on top. So, as beholders, as active participants in this life, will we shake an angry fist in an “eye for an eye” sort of downward cascading negative reaction on the road that leads to bitterness when faced with a loss or a setback, or will we look to the Lord for His help and perspective in time of need in an “aye for an eye” sort of way? Will we humbly give Him an aye, a yes, to work with even in our suffering?
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18, NKJV
My friend of several years, Nicole, has a prosthetic eye which she’s had for a longer period of time than our several years long friendship. I don’t know the details as to why she has a prosthetic eye, but I do know her heart’s attitude about it as witnessed by a story she shared with me recently. Not long ago Nicole sent out a prayer request for a co-worker of hers for their 5 year old daughter needing to have emergency surgery on one of her eyes. It seems the growth behind one of the little girl’s eyes that was initially thought not to be a tumor, turned out to be a tumor after all requiring immediate surgery. A week prior Nicole’s co-worker, the little girl’s dad, reached out to her about her own experience because he was aware of her prosthetic eye. The family desperately needed Nicole’s first hand advice for their little daughter. Don’t we all seek out those precious voices of experience in such times? After all, words from people “who have lived it” are like gold in times of trouble. In the midst of their conversation Nicole was able to share her faith in Jesus with this family who didn’t know the Lord. It’s fair to say that the road to this conversation was paved by Nicole’s prosthetic eye. Am I saying the Lord purposely took Nicole’s eye just for this conversation to occur years after the fact? No, not at all. But, I am saying that Nicole rightly gave this loss to the Lord rather than becoming embittered by it. You have to surely agree that it’s fascinating that here we have an eye that cannot see according to the world’s perspective, but yet fully sees Him, guiding an eye that can see as the world understands sight, but is nonetheless blind to Him. To put it another way, rather than embracing bitterness over the loss of her eye, Nicole allowed herself to become a yes, an aye, for Him and His purposes well before she could even “see” how He might be able to use her in this supposedly “broken” condition. Brokeness, isn’t it amazing what the Lord can do with what a rebellious and angry world judges to be a loss worthy of fist shaking accusations hurled at God for His lack of presence or lack of compassion, but instead has been freely given to Him for His own good purposes in His own good timing? It’s staggeringly beautiful, truth be told.
The Lord desires that our hope in Him abounds even in the midst of our losses and sufferings to the point our ability to help others will soar when we place our brokeness into His hands. My friend and former pastor, Tim, captures this thought saying, “Ministry is ministering to others right in the middle of your own pain.” Will you now trust Him enough to say “yes” to Him with your life, every bit of your life, even your pain, that He might use you as only He can? Will you allow Him to bring beauty into not only your own life, but other’s lives as well as His willing beholder who says, “Aye, Lord, here I am?”
“The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!” Lamentations 3:24, NKJV
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20, NKJV
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear as the learned.” Isaiah 50:4, NKJV
“Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NKJV