Sometimes when a trial (like long-term unemployment) never seems to end, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a “bigger picture” going on “out there” in God’s economy beyond our own little world. James 1 does tell us that our trials come to test our faith (and there’s no set time limit on any particular trial) which–if we allow it to–produces perseverance. And verse 4 states: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” However, there is a much larger picture going on in this world and our own personal trials do not just have an effect on us, although many times it may seem like it. In the broader picture, everything in God’s economy is wrapped up in this one verse, 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And that promise encompasses the entire world.
Four years ago this month I created this blog as an attempt to put into words what it’s like to be long-term unemployed. Of course, at that time I had been unemployed for one year and three months which seemed to me to be Way. Too. Long. In fact, after nine months of sporadic blogging accompanied by a whole lot of frustration at still being unemployed, I gave up on blogging and just wanted to FIND. A. JOB. . . .
Three months later (and now three years ago) I fired this blog back up in July 2011 at which point I had been unemployed for two years and three months. And it just took off from that point . . . and I mean like the wind. This month (July 2014) I’m celebrating four years of blogging on WordPress.com even though those first nine months are lost forever in cyberspace and there was a three-month cooling off period before I started again. Oh, and did I mention that the length of unemployment has now (to date) skyrocketed to five years and three months . . . Sigh . . . .
Who knew? I sure didn’t. However, over the course of these past five plus years living in the land of the unemployed, my view on life has considerably widened. There is something about the daily routine of work and other responsibilities that gets in the way of really “seeing” our world and it stunts our reality. Albert Einstein once stated, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” (quote source here), and that may be somewhat true in our own small world on how we perceive our own set of circumstances. However, on a broader scale, it simply isn’t true. For example, 9/11 wasn’t “merely an illusion.” Neither were the Nazi Germany death camps that killed more than six million Jewish people and many others during World War II.
This evening I ran across a short devotional in Our Daily Bread that doesn’t actually show up until later in the month (sometimes I have a tendency to peek ahead). It’s titled, “Divine Perspective,” written by Poh Fang Chia, and she mentions a devotional passage found in Habakkuk 2:2-14. Here’s what she wrote:
For the revelation awaits
an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it,
it will certainly come
and will not delay.
Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!
Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God (Hab. 2:3).
Those who don’t show any regard for God may seem to prosper at the moment, but God will ultimately right all wrong. God acts sovereignly in all that comes to pass so that everything works toward His good purpose. God’s plan will surely take place and be on schedule (v. 3).
We can’t sort out the whole picture from where we are in life; only God can. So let us continue to live by faith and not by sight. From His perspective, all things are working together for the believer’s good and for His honor.
Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise,
All my times are in Your hand,
All events at Your command. ~Ryland
Our times are in God’s hands;
our souls are in His keeping.
Now I don’t know about you, but “the ride on the ground” over these past five plus years of mine are much as Jason described above–chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. And I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see my total situation from a bird’s eye view looking down on it as an outsider might view it (e.g., the broader picture that is really taking place). However, in Jason’s situation, he was able to get out of the chaos and onto the observation deck high above it where he could look down and see that there was actually order and design to what he had just experienced. In other words, he saw a much larger picture and the chaos he personally experienced was just a tiny part of it.
As the author stated above, “Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God” (Hab. 2:3).
A year ago in June I wrote a blog post on Habakkuk that included all three chapters in the Old Testament book named after him. The blog post is titled, “The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited” (available at this link). Habakkuk could see the evil all around him and wondered, just like the rest of us do today, where God was in the midst of all that evil and asking God when justice would finally show up. And God responded by telling him there was something much bigger going on and that it was “awaiting an appointed time” (Hab. 2:3).
As stated in my previous post, in the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful (see Chapter 2 for details), he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):
“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.”
This brings us back to the subject of our own personal trials. We can’t see the overall picture as we are too close to it, yet God has a much bigger picture in mind that goes way beyond what we are experiencing. Of course, sometimes, just like Habakkuk experienced after God explained to him what was going to happen “at an appointed time,” the answer is disconcerting but ends with the demise of the enemy. We, as believers, are told in Hab. 2:4, “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” There’s that word again–faith–which brings us back to the reason trials enter our lives in the first place–to test that faith and produce perseverance (see James 1).
The same theme is found in Hebrews 10:36-39:
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
We are to live by faith, and trust God for the outcome. And in living by faith we, like Habakkuk at the beginning of Chapter 3, end up praising and worshiping God for who he is, because He is ultimately in control all the time.
While we may only see the chaos . . .
That’s not the whole picture . . . .
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay. ~Habakkuk 2:3
YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” (2009) by Phillips, Craig & Dean: