Many approaching graduation think their hopes of finding a spouse are forever dashed. Many are in a hated job with no prospects of change. Many are in a marriage so disappointing they feel stuck. Many feel they have a child they’ve prayed for without seeing any change in years.
Many struggle with hopelessness. “I’m trying everything. Nothing is getting better. I’ve been faithful! I don’t see God coming through. I’m praying fervently! God hasn’t answered me. Things are getting worse!”
Things often go from bad to worse despite our efforts. We often feel as though God isn’t in control or doesn’t care about us. That’s what Satan wants us to think.
The Bible is full of stories where it seems God is leading His people into a dead end. Jacob would have the birthright but his dad didn’t love him. His brother hated him. He ran far away to live with relatives. His father-in-law tricked him. Things went downhill for years.
God told Joseph he would be ruler. Then he got beat up and thrown into a pit. He was sold into slavery, falsely accused, left in a dungeon, forgotten. Every incident seemed to move him decidedly away from being a ruler.
Moses wanted to deliver God’s people. He killed an Egyptian. His plan failed. He ran for his life. This prince became a shepherd for forty years on the backside of the desert.
The Israelites’ slavery in Egypt got worse. “Make bricks and get your own straw!” They had to wait through ten plagues after waiting 400 years. Then they got stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the sea.
God anointed David to be king. He had to return to tending sheep. He also served as an errand boy for his dad. He became an armor bearer and a harp player for the demon possessed king. He became an outlaw. He ran to the Philistines who seized him. He barely escaped. His own men wanted to turn on him. Every step seemed to take him further away from the throne.
Esther was an orphan. She was snatched away from her new family into a harem. She was forced to marry a self-centered king. Her people were threatened with annihilation.
There are more similar stories in the Bible and in life. Why does God do this? We don’t know all of His reasons. Some are clear.
There is often sin in our heart God is trying to expose and refine out of our lives. Jacob was a self-made man in his own eyes, filled with self-dependence. Years of suffering humbled him. He was broken and dependent on God. “I won’t let you go until you bless me!”
Joseph probably had pride in being dad’s favorite and God’s chosen leader. At a minimum he was insensitive to share his dream with his brothers twice, knowing their jealousy. He later became more loving and humble.
Moses raced ahead of God’s timing. Forty years later he was the most humble man on earth. The Israelites had a deserving mentality that led to complaining and grumbling. Years in the desert changed things.
When it seems circumstances are leading us away from God’s best, we should pray, “God what are you trying to teach me?” We should search our hearts and repent of any known sin. Often that is what He is doing, but not always.
Sometimes the struggles just prepare us for what God has next. That was the case for David. Years of fleeing Saul made him into a stronger man of faith and dependence. Many of his Psalms were written in the wilderness. Often God is simply growing our faith, deepening our trust in Him.
Lastly, most importantly, God is magnifying His greatness. God is a jealous God, a jealous lover. When He sees us exalting anything else in life, even ourselves, He will ruthlessly come after that idol. He demands to be supreme in our life and affections.
He wants and deserves glory for all successes in our lives. He doesn’t want us to claim, “Look at what I have accomplished!” He rightly demands all the praise, credit and honor. And when we are careful to give it to Him, we get more joy in the long run! Worship is His ultimate goal for us and is the most pleasurable gift He gives us!
WHAT TO DO
This is easy to see historically. It is hard to practice practically. We hope that Romans 8:28 will play out in our lives quickly. On Friday something hard happens. On Saturday we pray. By Sunday everything is fixed and we understand what God did. It rarely works like that. God isn’t a sitcom God. We must trust Him, knowing his plan could take a life time or longer to accomplish.
He can change things quickly. Joseph went from prisoner to prime minister in a day. David went from fugitive to king in a day. The Israelites went from slaves to free in a day.
One time it happened very quickly and clearly. Imagine John at the cross after Christ hung his head and died. Talk about a dead end. What must he have felt? Total despair? Despondency and depression? Did he contemplate suicide? The death of Christ seems to be the greatest dead end of all time.
And yet we know the glorious end to the story. Sunday morning Christ rose again having conquered death and hell for us. All of John’s gloom turned to joy and so should ours!
There is ultimately and truly only one dead end that God ever sends people to: Hell. If you are in Christ, you will never go there for Christ has been there for you. No matter the pain in your life He is with you. No matter the hardship you suffer He is for you. No matter how bleak the circumstances look presently, He is working all things together for your good. Trust Him!