For the last few years, my body has had a strange relationship with food. By strange, I mean terrible. Rather than providing nutrition, many foods provide me with small doses of poison. Which foods do this and in what amounts? I’m not sure. Actually, no one is sure — and that’s the hardest part.
When the pain spikes and my stomach swells, I know I’m having a reaction. Most of the time, my only defense is to get some extra sleep and take more medicine, knowing the sickness will be gone in a few days. Sometimes, however, I worry something is really wrong, that I might be dying. I feel like Humpty Dumpty: all the king’s horses and all the king’s men — and all of the medical specialists and all of nature’s holistic remedies — can’t seem to get my digestive system working again. Over the last four years, I’ve accumulated a cabinet full of plastic bottles with strange labels, but found very little help.
Sometimes God Closes Doors and Windows
As I’ve processed the nearly constant pain and inconvenience, I have been helped by Jared Wilson. He beautifully describes what it means to be broken and yet still loved by God. He knows what it’s like to let go of the rope we’re all holding on to and let Jesus catch him.
I have a problem with all the “chase your dreams!” cheerleading from Christian leaders. It’s not because I begrudge people who want to achieve their dreams, but because I think we don’t readily see how easy it is to conflate our dream-chasing with God’s will in Christ.
You know, it’s possible that God’s plan for us is littleness. His plan for us may be personal failure. It’s possible that when another door closes, it’s not because he plans to open the window, but because he plans to have the building fall down on you. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will Christ be enough? (The Story of Everything, 122)
This paragraph reflects a theme of Christianity that is often neglected in even our best churches: tomorrow might not be better than today.
Sometimes Decreasing Means Death
Two things from Wilson’s quote can be illustrated by looking briefly at the life of John the Baptist. First, the statement about littleness. John the Baptist said with reference to Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John desired that Jesus would move into the spotlight instead of him, modeling for us the eternal beauty of littleness now.
Second, Wilson spoofs a common phrase in Christian lingo: that a closed door must mean another opportunity (a better opportunity!) will always arise. But it’s possible that won’t be the case — it wasn’t for John. When God sent John to prison, he didn’t get out. He was executed there (Matthew 14:1–12).
But before he was killed, John sent messengers to Jesus to ask if he was the Messiah, or if they should look for another (Matthew 11:1–3). Rather than nourishing his faith, the difficult circumstances of John’s life were acting like poison, which then led him toward doubt and disillusionment. It just didn’t seem like Jesus was doing the kinds of things he expected the Messiah would do. If Jesus came to set captives free (Luke 4:18), then why am I still locked up?
To be more blunt, in prison John was asking whether Jesus would be enough for him when he actually did decrease and it seemed he was going to die.
Will Christ Be Enough?
And the question we often ask is similar. Will Jesus be enough for us when one door closes and God doesn’t open a window?
Yes, yes he will.
When you stand up for what’s right and end up in jail (as was the case for John); when you have cancer; when you lose your job; when your house is robbed; when your parents get divorced; when you’re sick and lying on the floor and your children ask, “Daddy, are you okay?” Jesus is still Jesus. And he will be enough for you.
When the apostle Paul repeatedly prayed for his difficulties to be taken away, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Elsewhere God reminds his people, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Today, if you are weak, know that Jesus is strong and he loves you dearly — even if you don’t understand your own pain and God’s plan for it. Our afflictions are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Though the whole house falls down, our foundation in Christ will never crack.
Benjamin Vrbicek (@BenjaminVrbicek) is a teaching pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He blogs at Fan and Flame, and is the co-author of More People to Love. This article first appeared on desiringgod.org.