It’s amazing what perspective will do for you!
It can take what seems BIG and make it really quite small!
Or little details can grow into great distractions!
Take for example our last road-trip down through the Pacific Coast States.
Everything was going great; I had no sooner preached 'The River of Joy' in The River of Joy Church on Saturday evening, when we got tested on it Sunday morning.
I missed the turnoff from I-80 north to Oroville coming out of Sacramento and while trying to navigate back onto the freeway, I felt the gear shift lurch and the motor rev.
I first thought my wearing sandals caused the momentary blip, but then it happened again…
and a short while later again and then I knew we dealing with something more…
possible transmission problems?
Soon our trusty Honda Civic lost speed, engine power wasn’t transmitting to forward thrust and we limped barely along the freeway. I felt my heart sink and a sense of numbness start to move like mist through my entire body. Somehow I knew this was the end of an up-to-then problem-free rest and ministry break.
And I also understood I was neither ready nor prepared to deal with this wrench in our journey.
As we slowed to a crawl, I remembered driving by others stalled beside the road near the beginning of our trip and thinking, ‘Thank you, Lord, that’s not us!’ In fact, that has never been us … in all our trips: all across Canada and then all the way back again; holidays to Yellowstone, the Utah parks and the Grand Canyon. Sure, we once barely crossed the border back into Canada with a blown head gasket, but never had we been stranded beside the road. This first now appeared to be a distinct possibility. And… there we were, pulled off at East Nicolaus, soon to ever symbolize the end of the middle of nowhere for us. The freeway sign depicted food, but no gas station or vehicle repair shop. And Sammie’s, the Mexican restaurant was closed while the only other building in town was a fire station. We didn’t have a fire, but it was closed anyway! Quite apparently, this part of California closed down tight for its Sunday sabbath. We’re believers also, but these people were practising their faith at a very inconvenient time for us!
Our Honda ceased all forward motion. We pushed and rolled it under a lonely tree’s shade so the increasing heat wouldn’t add more to all the sudden intensity.
I looked at my wife with despair and bewilderment!
I sighed heavily and finally forced out, ‘I don’t know what to do!’
I’m sure that didn’t give her a lot of reassurance. Questions raced through my mind, from the proverbial ‘What did we do wrong?’ to the existential ‘Why us?’ ‘Why now?’ After all, we’d been on our way to church in Oroville. Sure, I’d been racing to get there, slowing down only to escape four Highway Patrol speed traps, but why did those cops have to be out on Sunday mornings anyways, trying to catch innocent Christians speeding to their houses of worship?
But no answers came. Both God and the car went silent and we sat there wondering, ‘What now?’ I hoped it was nothing serious, but in my heart I intuitively knew this marked the end of our problemless road-trip. Some mysterious destiny was about to unravel here, but I was quite unsure as to how willing I was to accept it. Of course we prayed against and bound up the devil’s attack, but somehow I knew God was at the centre of it. Yes, He could even use the enemy’s evil machinations to work an ever greater good, but I wasn’t seeing that right then. All I saw was a broken-down car, an interrupted plan and a possibly very high bill! Transmissions don’t come cheap! Especially in the middle of nowhere!
No plan sprang to mind; no phone reception either. I had neglected to charge my cell overnight anyways, but that didn’t matter anyways; even the helpful Highway Patrolman's cell phone got no reception out there!
Condemnation started crawling all over me…
’It’s your fault this happened!
Remember that guy who changed your oil asked if you wanted to flush the transmission fluid?
‘It’s real dark + smells burnt,’ he’d said.
But you said, ‘No, my mechanic’s changed it!’
I hadn’t believed him. I’d distrusted his ‘opinion’ as a merely money-grabbing opportunity.
But now his opinion had obviously become truth! I began to agree with my accuser and my heart sank even further.
Somehow we and our car got towed out of the middle of nowhere and ended up literally at The Father's House, a cool and friendly place to stay in the middle of this Californian furnace.
That day passed and the next went from bad to worse. The transmission problem was verified and the diagnosis grew decidedly more serious as the possible estimate climbed to $3500.
Should I just abandon the car here in the States? junk it for $700 to the tranny-guy’s mechanic, cut our losses and just get the quickest, cheapest tickets back home?
Besides, we needed to get back the next day to greet our Japanese home-stay student with Christian hospitality + smiles, (mustn’t forget to always put on my authentic everyday smile for the unbelievers!) and even teach my New Covenant Realities class how we are more than conquerors through Christ! How does that go again? Joy always triumphs through trials. Yeah, right! It’s a lot easier to mouth the words than walk the message. That truth seemed far away today.
But isn’t it also true that more mature born-again Spirit-filled Christians should be beyond such major fleshly testings by now?
After all, my 38 years of walking with God have progressed me beyond that, right?
I guess not.
The test was indeed very real and I didn't fare very well.
Fear dug its caves deeper; complaint raised its ugly accusations and an orphan mentality resurfaced as I felt again the intensity of a bad RAP – Rejection, Anger + Pain.
After all this time, were they still unvanquished? How long must I continue to war against these enemies? Are their sudden onslaughts yet so powerful they can so simply overwhelm me?
Then the revelation came to me: What’s the Lord’s perspective on this?
How does He see me and my circumstances now?
Is He as upset as I am?
Is His eternal plan disrupted by this temporary highway breakdown?
How do their imagined costs measure up against His abundant cattle on 1000 hills? or even my own past experience?
And then I had a revelation on perspective:
One night only a few years ago, I sat at my wife’s bedside as she lay comatose, her life hanging in an unknown balance. The doctors had not given a good report. Even if she survived the night, it was highly likely that severe brain damage would leave her in a vegetative state of existence.
I cried out to God. Many of you cried out with me.
He heard our prayers + spoke the words of Job 23:10 into my heart. No, not the verse’s well-known ending, but its less familiar beginning:
‘But He knows the way that I take.’
Somehow these words rose in my spirit and I recognized that the One who is The Way was present and at work. The night passed with little sleep, but I had a simple comforting assurance that more than just morning would dawn the next day.
And true enough, when we entered her room the next day, she was both awake and aware.
Although she couldn’t talk with all those breathing tubes in her mouth, her eyes flashed with life!She made signs for a pencil and wrote:
‘Who found me?’
‘I guess God’s not finished with me here yet!’
And from that moment, all the enemy’s plans against us were completely defeated.
So… if He cares for the sparrows + lilies?
and since He has indeed raised His Son from the grave, conquered death and restored my wife!
then can’t He also take care of the mundane, temporal and comparably minute problems of cars, transmissions + bills!?
God’s perspective exposes trials in His true light and context: they are not as all-consuming as they seem in their centre-stage moments. In light of all God is + does, these are mere distractions along the sidelines that seek to take our attention off the main player + events of life: Jesus is Risen!
They expose our tendency to major on minors and magnify the minute, but when we yield to Christ in their midst, our trust in God allows the Holy Spirit to reveal more clearly what is truly important.
Our walk sometimes seems like the road to Emmaus: we have bits of info, but aren't connecting them rightly. We should be rejoicing at the greatest news in history, but we feel DIScouraged, DISqualified, DIStressed, DIStracted, DISapproved, the vision has DISappeared + we are DISappointed.
But don't let the enemy 'DIS' you.
Let the Blood + Love of Jesus wash the 'DIS's off + Be Encouraged!
You are not dis-qualified, but qualified for God to use you to His greater glory!
You are not dis-tracted, but let Jesus take His place as the Main Attraction in your life!
Let His faith + love remove the ‘dis’ from your dis-appointment so you don't miss His Appointment!
After ten days in this fiery furnace, I finally returned home; our fixed car followed later, and the Lord met all our needs: He not only provided enough to pay those looming transmission bills, but more than enough, above and beyond our needs, to fund successive mission trips to Africa, India and Nepal later in the year.
Jesus knows the end from the beginning. In fact, He is the Beginning + the End + Everything in Between: the Way, the Truth and the Life. From His perspective, tests + trials are simply His means of moving us from our last glory to His next glory, trusting + following Him through the transmission-transition-tribulation-transformation process, birthing new life!
His view from the throne is so much clearer and better than from a broken roadside or hospital bed.