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Over the past few years, I have written much about pain, heartbreak, and sorrow, that I have often forgotten the joy, smiles, and sunshine amid the rain. After walking through trial after trial, it seems that circumstantial happenings have clouded my vision from time to time. Masked beneath the anguish, I am guilty of disremembering that the fear of the Lord brings wisdom and the joy of the Lord is my strength and song.
In the second half of 2 Timothy 3, Paul finishes giving Timothy advice for living as a Lover of God amid a Godless world. While Paul is not concerned about Timothy’s state of living, compared to those around him, one of my favorite things about this passage of Scripture is Paul’s positivity.
During A.D. 67, Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3 from a prison cell (a second time). Teaching God’s truth with gentleness and faithfulness, I am always amazed by the charisma of a man surrounded by turmoil yet set steadfast on the prize, mission, and admiration of His Lord.
From Saul to Paul, Paul knew both sides of the coin; he knew what life was like with Christ, and he knew what life without Christ embodied.
As an ex-persecutor of Christians, Saul became Paul when he realized that despite his external behaviors or conditions, he was a sinner in need of a Savior, damned for eternity unless he followed the way of the Lord through a relationship with Him.
Philippians 4:12-13 of the New Revised Standard Edition explains these conditions this way, “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13, NRSV).
Nevertheless, in all he went through, Paul knew that the Lord was on His side despite the good or bad that circumstantially impacted him. Prison cell or running free, feasts for days or poverty for months, Paul remembered that our God is not circumstantial (Philippians Chapter 4). But for myself? I tend to forget that often, and I don’t think I am alone.
Today, I think we often forget that our God is not a circumstantial God, not because we forget who He is, but because we lose sight of who He is in relation to what our problems tell us He’s capable of doing. But God is not only present on the good days, but He’s also there in the bad.
Especially when bad things happen to good people, we tend to think God has gone MIA. As soon as calamity strikes the Believer, we consider a plethora of questions.
“How did I sin?”
“What did I do wrong?”
“Where is God?”
“Am I being punished?”
Yet we forget that suffering is where we are called (1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 4:1). We forget that as Elie Wiesel, the author of Night, a traumatic memoir of the Holocaust, recounts, God is hanging with us in the gallows, too.
“Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows…” (Night, Chapter 4, page 65, a stranger in the crowd, then Elie to himself).
While it does not make it any easier to deal with or answer all the questions lurking in our minds, we can rest assured that God is with us, even when bad things happen.
We may question why He allows bad things to happen to good people because that’s the age-old adage, right? From a family death to mental illness, murder, or COVID-19, one channel on the TV or walk down the street will remind you that you live in a messed-up world. I, too, have faced my fair share of those heartbreaks.
In fact, I faced a sudden family death the last weekend of July 2021 and was heartbroken not just for myself but the wounded family at hand. I cannot answer them as to why their loved one had to get cancer and die so soon. From within my own heart, I still ask God why because my human understanding does not allow me to understand His plans, timing, and ways entirely. I am still far from having all the answers.
But what I do know is this: We live in a fallen world due to our sin, and this world was never God’s intended plan for our eternal home (And this is why Heaven/eternity with Christ is with Him and is such a treasure/reward!).
God is not a circumstantial God but an omnipresent one. He’s all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful. And as 2 Timothy 3:10-15 notes, even amid the chaos, we must press on.
“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:10-15, NIV).
The world around us may be on fire, but it’s not like He doesn’t already know.
I don’t know how He does it or will continue to do it, but rescuing is in His nature, and I know He always will.
Because my God is not a circumstantial God, but God of every high and low despite the circumstances faced. And as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.