Seeing God's Grace in the Painful Things
The older I get, the more I want to avoid pain and hard times in my life. Sickness, grief, and suffering are not desirable. When something hard happens, I am usually waiting in anticipation for it to be over. I go out of my way to try and feel ease and comfort.
However, the older I get, the more I realize that God grows us in the hard and painful things. We are conformed more and more to the image of Christ not through our comfort and ease, but through our trials and suffering. We need to shift how we think about hard things. Instead of seeing them as inconvenient and something to be escaped, we need to realize that more often than not, God is up to something in our lives.
I was reminded of God’s grace in hard things recently as I was reading about King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was warned through a dream that he would be humbled so that he would know “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will” (Dan. 4:25). He was warned by Daniel, “break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan. 4:27).
The king did not listen. Instead, he was proud and credited himself with building his kingdom. Immediately, he was made like a beast of the field. Daniel 4:33 tells us, “Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.”
This sounds terrible doesn’t it? Nebuchadnezzar went from being a king to being like a wild animal. He went from the highest place to the lowest place. This sounds like a situation I would be eager to get out of. What happens with Nebuchadnezzar?
We see at the end of the chapter that God restores Nebuchadnezzar as king and “still more greatness was added” to him (Dan. 4:36). However, something has changed in King Nebuchadnezzar’s life. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble” (Dan. 4:37).
The king, in his humiliation, meets the true King. The king, who sung his own praises, now praises the King of Kings who deserves all glory, honor and praise. The king of a temporal kingdom is given citizenship to the eternal kingdom.
God, in making Nebuchadnezzar like a beast of the field, is incredibly gracious to him. God had every right to strip the kingdom from Nebuchadnezzar and even put him to death. Nebuchadnezzar’s story could have ended just as Pharoah’s did when God brought Israel out of Egypt. Instead, God revealed Himself to Nebuchadnezzar through his humiliation.
We must learn to see God’s grace in the hard things. We don’t deserve another day on this earth. Even when life is hard, God is gracious. Instead of seeking immediate escape, we must realize God has a good plan and that, even more than in times of comfort, God conforms us more and more to the image of His Son in trials and hardship.
We don’t always know what God is doing, but we do always know that He is good. We can trust His character. May we lean on those precious words from the Apostle Paul when he says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).