“Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.” (Is. 38:17)
Is God working in the good times or the bad times? Of course, we know that “for those who love God all things work together for good” but do we really live that way? My prayers often focus so much more on some future good I want to see God do for me. I want God to heal, to restore, and to deliver. These are good things. We should pray for them! But, how often do we ask God to use our sickness, our hurts, and the scariest moments of our lives to move in us and show himself through us.
As we have been reading in our CBR journal, I am struck by the life of Hezekiah. The rest of the Bible reveals that Hezekiah was a good and politically successful king. However, in Isaiah, the picture is very different. It isn’t different because the details are changed. It’s different because Isaiah zooms in on the adversity in Hezekiah’s life. It shows him with his back to the wall and odds against him. It shows him struggling with a sickness and “at the point of death.” (Is. 38:1) However, it is in these dark moments that Hezekiah triumphs. It isn’t because he is so great or faithful but because he clings desperately to a God who delivers and saves. In the story, God hears his prayer and heals him from his sickness.
Hezekiah recognizes though that God was not just at work in the healing but in the “bitterness” of his sickness also. How could this be? It was in his moment of desperate need that Hezekiah learned to cry out, “My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety.” (Is. 38:14) Hezekiah was forced to trust God because he had no other options and this he says was for his “welfare”. It was good for him to experience this. So often, it is only when what is before our eyes fails to save us that we truly begin to look up and see the God that can.
I’m not saying stop praying for God to save and heal. Our God heals and saves. It’s who he is and we can and should cry out for him to redeem the evil in our lives and in our world. But, I think we need to have a wider view of what that redemption is. If we only see God’s work as getting out of the bad, we fail to see why he allowed us to be brought there in the first place. As an old preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” May we learn to embrace and see God work in our deliverance and in our sorrow.