What is the worst thing that God could do to you?
Give you cancer?
Make you go through a bankruptcy?
Send you a letter from the IRS?
Here’s another question. Imagine how your life would look if God gave you everything you ever wanted.
You would be wildly popular. And fit. And rich.
And maybe even in hell.
Hell, in case you are unaware, is one of only two places where popularity, fitness and wealth do not matter.
The worst thing that God could possibly ever do to you is to give you everything you’ve ever wanted. Take a moment to think about all of the bad things that have happened to you. Think about all of the bad things that have happened to family and friends that you would rather have had happen to you.
The endless nights in tiny ICU waiting rooms.
Speaking to the long line of well-meaning friends when you would really rather just be speaking to the person in the casket behind you.
Think about all of those moments from your life. Now, think about where you would be without those moments. It’s not as pretty as you might think.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say something about your Fight Song or about whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
The message of the Bible is not whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
Instead, the Bible tells us that whatever tries to kill us reminds us of our weaknesses, not our strengths. And it tells us that sometimes what seems to make us stronger is what kills us (Proverbs 16:18). But it is in our weaknesses that we find a strength greater than we could ever possess.
The strength of Christ.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
And the strength of Christ is something that we will never know if we’re busy merely counting our blessings, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps or singing our Fight Song.
Christians are given a simple promise from God. It’s not a promise of a new Bentley on 26-inch rims with Slow-n-Low written on the top of the tinted windshield and a tag on the front bumper that reads #TrulyBlessed. His promise is much better than that.
His promise is his presence (Matthew 1:23; 28:20).
Sometimes it’s easy to recognize the presence of God. We can be reminded of it while we sit back and look at a beautiful sunset with our family at our side.
But, too often, we miss it. Our supposed strength tends to get in the way sometimes. Thankfully, the faithful presence of our good God is not confined to sunsets on the beach.
We can know his presence in the funeral home. We can know it in the ICU waiting room. We can know it in the actual ICU room.
If God always gave us everything that we ever wanted, we would all believe that terrible lie that we can make it on our own. God sometimes sends pain our way (2 Corinthians 12:7). But that pain is never an end in itself. And it is always grace. It is grace because it points us to a strength greater than our own and a Savior greater than our possessions.
The worst thing that God could ever do to you is to give you everything you ever wanted.
The best thing that God could ever do for you is to give you more of himself. To make you more aware of his loving, sovereign presence. To make you more like Jesus.
He is the beginning of our journey. He is the heart of our journey. And he is the objective of our journey.
Sometimes that journey will lead you through beautiful beaches.
Sometimes it will lead you through the ICU.
But God’s promise is always true.
You are never alone. Jesus is with you and his power if perfect in you.
I have no idea why some people have to walk a path through hospital waiting rooms while others spend their nights enjoying moonlit beaches. I’ve been in both places. And if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change either one.
That’s because the beach and the waiting room have something in common.
Jesus is in both places.
But sometimes he’s easier to recognize in the waiting room.
But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV)