Whenever I’m walking a friend through a trial -- or walking through a trial myself -- I tend to say the same things over and over.
God knew this was coming.
This is part of his plan.
He’s sovereign over this trial and has a purpose for it.
This trial is in your life for your good and God’s glory.
I worry that I sound like a broken record, but whether it’s a marriage that’s exploding or just the hot water heater, I have nothing else to offer. God’s sovereignty is it. In my advice and writing, I’m very much a one trick pony.
It’s tempting to think I need to come up with something else. Surely there’s advice that’s more clever, something more sophisticated that will give women three concrete steps they can take to fix the problem. But even though it’s nothing very fancy, it’s the best I or anyone else can offer.
When we go through trials, both big and small, it’s easy to get bogged down in a cycle of self-recrimination and regret. “If only I had seen this coming. If I had just realized ahead of time,” we say over and over (and over) again. This is especially hard if we realize that our own sin led to our difficulties.
Realizing the consequences our sin has wrought is important; it’s one of the most effective means to drive us towards repentance. We have to be on guard, though, that we’re not letting repentance turn into self-chastisement.
What’s the difference? Repentance allows us to look to Christ and his forgiveness. Self-chastisement causes us to look to ourselves, as if we can somehow pay for our sin with our own regret. “I’ll just go over here in the corner and beat myself up,” we say, “because I’m not sure Christ’s death on the cross was quite enough to satisfy this particular sin.”
Focusing on God’s sovereignty also keeps our eyes on the only true solution. Remembering that God saw this coming (even the part of it that we fouled up) and knows exactly how it’s going to end allows us to rest in the present. However dire things look in the moment, we can trust God himself, who “knows the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10) and will lead us through.
Most importantly, this is the pattern of the Bible. God wants us to put our trust in him, not in explanations. Job was never given a reason for his trials, he was just given more of God himself. Habakkuk was given a reason, but was told that the reason would not fit our human notions of justice. In the end, both men realized they had to trust God for the results.
And that's what we should do as well.