Have you ever exclaimed, “I didn’t sign up for this!”? Most of us have likely heard or read it somewhere, perhaps spoken it in jest or real pain, seething anger or confused disappointment. This______ (fill in the blank) is not what you hoped for, anticipated, or expected. You prayed, asked for God’s help, waited, moved forward and:
The job would that was supposed to be fulfilling and a wonderful way to spend eight hours of your day? Your boss makes life miserable for you.
Your marriage isn’t the place of emotional intimacy or sexual faithfulness you expected and vowed to keep yourself.
You obeyed Jesus, giving up relationships that you knew were sinful, yet were a source of love and affection. Instead of the “all things” being used for good, you’re left with loneliness and deferred hopes.
You moved by faith into the costly, arduous, emotional, adoption process and now life is complicated and exhausting as scars from your child’s pre-adoption years manifest daily in overwhelmingly sad ways.
You prayed for God’s help to remain sexually obedient, yet the temptations still rage. How is that fair?!
Sigh. Was Anne of Green Gables right, that the life we thought we signed up for eventually becomes a “… perfect graveyard of buried hopes”?
Jesus chose you and ‘signed you up’ to share in his life.
Friends, what did we sign up for when we became followers of Jesus? Or asking it another way, what did we understand the Christian life to entail once we believed, committed, and began to follow Jesus? Were you told that Jesus blesses his followers with abundance and ease as a reward for forsaking sin, especially the ones we most enjoy? Maybe like many of us, you just assumed that a loving, gracious God would remove troubles, because after all, he has the power to do so!..
Recently, my English students responded to the prompt, “What type of weather represents your personality?” Now, I really try to journal with my students, but I often struggle to get out from under my grading to take part. But this prompt was different. I really wanted to write about this one, or did I? Literally seconds into my journaling, I realized that I was not a sunny day, or even a soft blanket of snow. My life-long loathing of certain parts of my temperament came flooding back, and my best answer was a storm, yes with lightning, maybe a bit of hail? Ouch. As a few of my students and I discovered— or were reminded—personalities can be complex. Sometimes, we might even wish we had a different one altogether.
When I consider my own temperament, I often question why God chooses to use seemingly difficult dispositions to accomplish his plan. Well, we may never have the answer to that question this side of heaven, but there is good news! The fathers and mothers of the faith were human too—personality flaws and all. The Bible shows us that God uses all his children for his Kingdom purposes— whether we view the glass as half-empty or half-full, whether we are outgoing or shy, whether we go with the flow or like things to stay the same. And, as we’ll soon see, even when we stumble and fall into sin, God works through us then too.
Relating to Those Who’ve Walked Before
I have certain traits, tendencies, weaknesses, and sins I would like to change in myself. I long to be more content. I wish I didn’t have a tendency toward despair. I desire to be rid of my fear of failure or rejection. I’ve confessed my selfishness with David who mourned: “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me…As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40: 12,17)….
We all know the favorite question of young children is “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do I have to eat this? Why do I have to go to bed?
The year 2020 has been a year of “WHY?” questions, often making us feel as helpless as young children. Why do we have to shut down? Why do we have to wear masks? Why are protests allowed when churches can’t meet? Why are they doing that? Why can’t things just be “normal”?
For me, personally, those questions have included Why did my sister die? Why couldn’t I be with her in the hospital? Why did they move so far away? Why wasn’t I a better sister?
If we gathered into books all the “Why?” questions from around the world from just this year, much less throughout history, the number of volumes could be endless, as the apostle John noted at the end of his gospel about the works of Christ: “I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25b NASB).
It is comforting to know that even Solomon in his wisdom, also asked why. Ecclesiastes 7 sounds as if it could have been written during a period like 2020. In verses 10 and 13-14, the author (traditionally believed to be Solomon) gives advice for us to heed today: “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. . . . Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”
This is not a fatalistic view, but it does warn that no man, not even Solomon, is wise enough to know God’s ways. Ecclesiastes 8 concludes, “When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.”…