I am going to share something that I think most parents have experienced, or most of us have experienced during our youth. Years ago, I was a bit puffed up as a parent, until one day when we had an incident with one of the kids. I woke up having no idea what would happen and I wish I could tell you it only happened once or only with one of our 6 children. Unfortunately, that would not be true. It did happen again and with most of our kids.
We were going through the normal course of life, trying to manage and teach our kids. I am not sure what it was we told one of our children “no” to (as time has erased from my memory), but I am sure we had come up with an inspired natural consequence since they had lost their mind. However, as soon as we said “no” it happened. Our beautiful child opened their mouth and, as they spoke, time froze and the air was seemingly sucked out of the room. What came out of their mouth was a clear and resounding response, “I hate you!”
At that moment, everyone in the house was drawn to that child, eyes became wide, mouths dropped. Immediately Elizabeth and I raced through the possibilities of why this was happening. Maybe our child was demon possessed; maybe our real child was switched at the hospital and now in someone else’s home and we received their child. What really happened as we came to understand is that our child had stopped trusting that our plan and instruction was best and as a result failed to trust that we loved them.
Of course, we dealt with the lack of trust with our child by explaining to them the fact that God made us to love them. My wife and I aim to prepare and shape them into people that know and love the Savior, so they will live life with humility and compassion that reflect Jesus. However, things do not really change as we age. The object of our trust or question where we place our trust expands. As adults, we can fall into the same trap of believing the lie that we know what is best for us and questioning the love of God because our plan is not happening. We can lose heart.
Paul helps us in these situations to not lose heart and to trust God’s love in Ephesians 1:18-19. Paul gives us three things that every believer needs to know about God. Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would give us understanding at the deepest level, at the heart level, of these truths about God that will strengthen our faith and keep us from losing heart.
“…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…”
The first of these truths is that God has called us to an eternal hope. This eternal perspective is key. We get caught in the trap of being a prisoner of the moment. As a prisoner, we evaluate God’s love by what He provides or prevents from happening to us in the circumstances of right now. In reality our circumstances of blessing and of suffering are preparing us for our eternity with Jesus. The more we focus on knowing Jesus more deeply, the more we will be encouraged in any circumstance and begin to appreciate what it will be like with Jesus in eternity.
CALLED BY GOD
The second truth Paul gives us is that we are called by God to be His people. Paul says that He prayed that we would “know the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints”. Paul is talking about us being God’s inheritance. This is huge in trusting God when we are in tough situations, because God loves us and He has chosen us to belong to Him. He has called us to be His people forever and He has planned our lives and will work in them to shape us into a people that will bring Him maximum glory. We can keep from losing heart by focusing on what we will become, which will bring God glory and will bring us real joy. It will bring us more joy than if life went the way we thought it should go. If we forget what God is doing to shape us and for what purpose, we miss out on what God is teaching us right now that has eternal value.
The third truth Paul gives us is I think the most compelling truth, which should convince us to trust God in every circumstance without losing heart. That truth is the magnitude of God’s power toward us who believe. In other words, God has the power to accomplish what He has promised and called us to. Our eternity with Him is not a long shot, it is a reality. His love for us convinces us that He has chosen us and has a plan for us. His power convinces us that our hope is a real hope that God will bring that calling to fruition.
It is even more encouraging to read in vv. 20-23 that Paul says we can trust these truths because God showed that His power is real because He raised Jesus, enthroned Jesus in Heaven and entrusted us to His care. I have taken this prayer in the course of my own trials to stay out of the trap of accusing God of not loving me because life is not going how I envisioned. More than that, I have found joy in my suffering by resisting the desire to shake my fist at God like a child and instead look to the eternal realities of God – He has chosen me to be His son. Despite how out of control you may feel, I ask you to join me in finding hope in the fact that while we have no power to control our suffering; the Creator God, Who has chosen us to be His people forever, has absolute control over our suffering and will use it to its greatest effect in our lives.