It is understandable to assume that when something good is happening it means God showed up, but when something bad happens, well, we just aren’t quite sure where He is. Western Christians, especially, tend to easily connect the dots between our blessings and the blesser himself. When the blessing is lacking, though, we quickly scramble to make the necessary spiritual adjustments.
I can read threads of Facebook messages and quickly agree and throw my own amen to the obvious conclusion that, “God showed up,” when praise is given for that negative test result for cancer. Or that, “God is still on is throne,” as dozens celebrate that rebellious teen who finally came to his senses and returned home.
I have braved through the book of Ezekiel recently and noticed another thread of conversation, this one a private one, between God and His prophet. I captured an unusual tone about twenty chapters in. God keeps saying things to Ezekiel like, “I will remove them from their land: then they will know I exist.” “I will hurt them: then they will know I love them.” “The enemy will swoop them into captivity: then they will know I am the one who has been caring for them.” Or, this really gripping warning to an enemy of Israel, “I will destroy you, and you will know I am the LORD.” (25:7). This clashes with our expectation that God will show up by doing something good for us. In these cases, he tells us how good he is by doing something not so good for us.
I have recently added to my understanding and appreciation of the way Jesus works this observation, how often He will take something away from us: sometimes He will allow us to experience pain: sometimes He will ask us to carry a heavier burden simply because He does love us. Withholding blessing can also be proof of His love for us, and the evidence of his sovereignty over our lives. It can be His way of saying, “I am going to show you that I am in control, and the best way for you to capture that, is by me taking something from you. It is my way of getting you to look to me. It is my way of letting you know, I care enough to trust you with my absence.”
Who do you admire more? The person who trust Jesus when everything is going well; or, the person who remains faithful when everything has been taken from him?
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21 ESV)
Either way, why don’t you praise Him today.
Our faith develops most strongly and God is most glorified most fully when we feel only his absence, when every trace of His presence vanishes and our resolve to trust continues. Larry Crabb (Real Church)