That’s a Gift? How Sometimes our Hardships Are God’s Fulfilled Promises

I’ve been reading through Scripture and Advent devotionals for myself (and the kids). We are so familiar with the story of Christ’s birth, sometimes we don’t slow down long enough to contemplate the implications of Immanuel, God with us. Or how Jesus fulfilled numerous prophesies foretold hundreds of years before He came. Or that He gave up His privilege and glory for a life confined to a human body. Incredible!

Mary and Joseph didn’t have it easy either. They had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted in the census. “Caesar decided people should go back to the town where they were born and pay taxes there. Well, when Caesar Augustus decided something, it became law. He did not know it was God who gave him the idea” (Graham, One Wintry Night). Imagine a 90-plus mile trek on a donkey’s back at 9 months pregnancy. The journey could have taken up to a week, sleeping on the ground, wondering if they’d make it in time (of course they had to because God was making sure His Son was born in Bethlehem). But couple those conditions with the loss of work. Joseph didn’t have sick leave or paid vacation days. When he wasn’t working, he wasn’t making money, and they weren’t exactly wealthy to begin with. The timing of this journey may have seemed more than inconvenient. And yet, the Creator of all was guaranteeing their safety and provision, even if what He provided seemed to be neglect (after all, a barn?).

Sometimes when we face hardships (whether they are physical, financial, relational or personal), we are tempted to believe that God has abandoned us to the pain. What are you doing here, Lord? Are you paying attention to me? Perhaps what He allows or leads us into is actually a gift. If we scan out and get a more objective perspective on our circumstances, we can trust that He is in the details (and the big picture). Discomfort, strain, and stress might overwhelm us, but He is doing something glorious in the midst of what seems like a mistake…or at the least, bad timing.

Remember what He cares most about in our lives is what we should long for as well: integrity, faith, joy, hope, patience, worship, submission, honor. Circumstances don’t dictate these attributes in our lives. In fact, they most glorify our Lord when we rise up in His strength despite what seems normal to the world: fear, complaints, and control. Comfort, security, wealth, and health are fleeting; His story goes on forever. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of that!

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