Recently I experienced what can only be described as a “burning bush” moment– like when God first spoke to Moses in Exodus 3. What led up to my “burning bush” experience? Last weekend my husband Marshall and I were away camping. Marshall is a wonderful man who has the heart of an inventor–he loves to tinker! He is thoughtful, generous and rarely gets angry at people but when “things” frustrate him . . . look out! As we were setting up our campsite, Marshall got frustrated and then angry as he was trying to fix something–I honestly do not recall what. Talking about the incident later, he said that when he gets frustrated, anger builds and is almost always rooted in the thought that he is “being DEFEATED by CHANCE.” I realized that he had expressed this before but, I had never taken it to heart. I thought about the times when I have been upset, slamming doors to emphasize my frustration. Thankfully those instances are rare but still . . . I’m embarrassed to have to admit it at all. I wondered:
Is the thought of our lives being thrown into disarray and defeated by “chance” at the root of much of our frustration and feeling victimized?
More to the point, the question my heart asked:
Can Christians be defeated by “chance”?
The next morning, with these questions still on my mind, I thought about how often the Bible talks about the mysterious ways of God. I thought about how the wisdom and perspective of Psalm 139 was instrumental in helping me appreciate God as Sovereign and Good. Verse 16 in particular has been a special encouragement to me in my walk with Christ:
“All the days ordained for me were written in Your Book before one of them came to be.”
For many years, when I had to fly (the majority of my family lives 3,000 miles away from where I live) I would board a plane always feeling inwardly defeated by fear. Verse 16 challenged me to surrender my fear as I embraced the assurance that there was nothing that could happen to me apart from God’s divine will. The next time I got on an airplane, I thanked God that He was with me and that He was in control. Since that time I have actually come to a place where I enjoy flying–sort of. Verse 16 settled the question of my vulnerability to “chance,” as my faith in Christ overtook the fear that had plagued me for so long.
As I continued to ponder the mystery of God’s will, I checked my concordance. I was dumbfounded when I noticed that myth was listed immediately after mystery–enter the “burning bush” moment! Intrigued by this, I looked up one of the references to myth in I Timothy 4 and was hit hard as I read:
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourselves to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:7 & 8)
I felt like I had stepped onto holy ground at the realization that “chance” fits into the category of “godless myths.” There is no place in God’s world for “chance” (or coincidence for that matter!) To yield to the idea of “chance” is to lose sight of God and to believe a lie. With the lie exposed I wondered, “Where do I go from here?” Bad things happen that we can’t make sense of; life often is not fair. It was then that I remembered the wisdom of James:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (1: 2-4)
James assures followers of Christ that God allows trials and suffering to draw us closer to Him. He is saying that the testing (tempering) of our faith gives opportunity for our being strengthened into maturity, confident in His loving purpose being worked out in our lives.
So how does this answer our question? Can Christians be defeated by “chance?” Not if we keep our focus on what pleases and honors God. There is no such thing as random chance in God’s Creation, but we certainly are vulnerable to being overwhelmed by the ugliness of sin (our own and the sin of others) when we doubt God’s goodness. Feeling overwhelmed by life? Turn to Christ with eyes of faith and give thanks that “today” has not come as a surprise to Him. Thank Him for His promise that,
“In all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Then walk in the confidence that our present and our future are secure in Him.
All to His Glory!