Isaiah 33:2 says, “Oh, Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be our arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” I have prayed these words practically every day since becoming a Christian. Sometimes in the midst of great sadness, other times with humble relief, and most times with bone crushing anguish. So much trouble. Persevering through unending trials. Heading off calamity. Minimizing collateral damage.
The promise that “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever” (Isaiah 32:17), like the dreaded “working out” phrase for exercise, meant that to achieve this righteousness I would need to work myself to death – running a race, keeping my mind’s eye on an elusive peace prize.
It’s been said that suffering is a gift from God, for in the midst of suffering He comforts us, enables us to rejoice, and matures us as Christians. Maybe God just wants to see if we will praise Him in all circumstances, a sort of test. Isaiah hints at this when he contrasts those who trust in man versus those who look to the Lord, God. (See Isaiah 31:1)
But lately my morbid view of living like the saints is being shattered. Wasted pieces of real time and life’s blood spent obsessing about what it is instead of fath in what is unseen. Opening now is Eternity’s panoramic brilliance, exploding in holy truth with Paul’s simple, powerful observation found in Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ…”
How could I have missed this all these years? Fear of playing the martyr, perhaps. Have my chains in Christ been burdensome? Shackled and held back from what I want to do. Was each trial an isolated event aimed just at me? The fishbowl effect or center stage.
Or were all these dead beliefs really just hindrances to seeing the broader picture? That these chains secure me to the Father of life, His other children, His Son, His Holy Spirit. That these chains declare God’s righteousness in me. To be counted as one of His own, to be given a purpose at this time and in this place, to bear His name and brave His suffering is to further His gospel. What I thought was about me was about the gospel. Can it be?