“Because he is zealous to rescue you from you, God’s care can be violent. He rips you from what is dangerous to give you what is better” (Paul David Tripp).
I was challenged recently by a devotional in Paul David Tripp’s book, New Morning Mercies. He suggests that maybe there are times in our lives when we cry out for God’s grace and mercy when we are already receiving it. He gives the illustration of the children of Israel. Look at what the Bible says about them in Judges 2:11-15, 18-19.
“And the People of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.
So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress…
Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their father, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.”
So with the quote in mind that I started with, here is a question: In which part of this passage did God extend his grace to the Israelites? Was it when he gave them over to oppression or when he delivered them from it? If we were in that situation, we would say when he delivered us from the affliction, right? But here we have the whole story and can see what God was doing. In a sense, he was saving them from destroying themselves when he gave them over to oppression, right? So, is it possible that he was displaying his grace to them by turning his hand AGAINST them?
I don’t think I ever thought before that the hard times in our lives might be a result of his grace. Can it be that because of God’s grace, he gives us trials and difficult times to make us return to him? Like the Israelites, I believe all of us are prone to fall into idolatry of different kinds. I think that we are capable of coming to a lukewarmness in our lives that takes away our dependency on God and allows us to think that we have life figured out.
But God, in His rich and wonderful grace, pours out His grace on us in those times and allows trials into our lives, some that are very painful. If you are like me, I tend to fight those times. They hurt! And I cry out for God’s grace and to be delivered from what I am going through without thinking that maybe this, THIS is God’s grace.
So let us take a lesson from this. When hard trials come, let us accept them and cry out for God to teach us what he wants us to learn rather than asking to be delivered from the trial that we are under. Yes, I believe it is ok to ask for deliverance but I also think we would do well to consider that maybe this trial in our life is sent from God to save us from something worse, our own self.
Can we trust God enough to believe that He is in full control of our lives? Can we trust that He knows what is best for us? Can we rest in His promise that He will never leave us to struggle alone? Can we trust Him, even when it feels like He is against us? God loves us with a love that is perfect, that will never fail us. He longs to see us refined and conformed to His image. So let us trust Him fully, accepting that at times His grace may come in a way that seems painful.