Days of Prosperity & Adversity
DOES GOD MAKE CROOKED?
I suppose what immediately strikes most readers as they read these verses is the phrase, “he (God) had made crooked.” Would God make anything crooked? That is not how we normally view God. We see Him as One who makes crooked paths straight instead of vice versa. In most of our minds, God is only capable of doing good, and not “bad” things.
If that is the case, what about these words, which God spoke through Isaiah: I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7 - ESV).
These words make it clear that it is a fallacy to believe that God does only good things. According to God Himself, He creates darkness and calamity. He does both good and ‘bad’ things. Well-meaning Christians would quickly jump to God’s defence and try to explain away this supposedly negative perception of God. They contend that God allows bad and evil things, but He does not initiate any of these actions.
Let us get our semantics right. I am not suggesting that God is capable of doing morally bad and evil things. No, it is not in His holy character to do that. But God does bring judgement on sinners and the fallen world in the form of devastating earthquakes, floods, storms and other disasters. He ordered the total destruction of the Canaanites and their cities when Israel invaded the Promised Land. While He promises blessings to those who obey Him, He warns the disobedient of curses (Deuteronomy 28). Theologians call these acts functional or physical evils, which is different from moral evil. God uses or initiates the use of functional evil, but this does not make God morally evil.
The fact of the matter is we live in a fallen world. As Roy Gingrich, a bible scholar and commentator said, “As a result of the Fall, God has made many things to be crooked, tangled, disorganized, out of alignment (God sends physical evil; He permits moral evil).”
GOD BRINGS BOTH PROSPERITY & ADVERSITY
Because we live in a fallen and corrupt world, we experience both light and darkness, and both days of prosperity and days of adversity during the course of our lives. No one, including Christians, are spared from heartaches, pain and afflictions. And even calamities as we see in the case of Job. Contrary to the mistaken belief of some Christians, it would not be wrong to say that Christians can expect more trials and sufferings because of our adversary, the devil.
Sometimes, the adversities come as the result of our folly. We make stupid decisions. We succumb to temptations. However, if you have lived long enough, you would have discovered, as I have, that there are circumstances in our lives – both good and bad; favourable and unfavourable – which are not attributable to us. They just happen, and they are completely outside of our control. It is neither our cleverness that results in our prosperity nor our stupidity that brings the misfortune.
Atheists attribute it to chance. Some people call it luck while religious people believe that supernatural forces are behind it. However, God declares, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 - ESV).
How do we respond to this truth about God sovereignly controlling the ebbs and flows in our lives? We can draw a few lessons from the Preacher’s insights.
BE JOYFUL IN THE DAYS OF PROSPERITY
First, be joyful in the days of prosperity. Be happy. Celebrate your victory and success. Enjoy the blessings while it lasts. Be grateful and remember to thank God.
IN THE DAYS OF ADVERSITY, CONSIDER
Second, know that the days of adversity will come. When it comes, do not despair. Make full use of these painful moments. God can speak to us and work in our lives through such times. Truth be told, usually we learn more and better in times of adversity. Therefore, the Preacher counsels us - “in the day of adversity consider.” Consider what really is happening. Consider what we can learn from the trials.
Use this time to take stock of your life.
Perhaps the adversity is a consequence of your sin or mistake. You have been too proud, too obstinate, too selfish, too belligerent. As a result, you are blindsided and fall into error.
Maybe you have been so busy or there is so much noise in your life, and God is screaming for your attention. He wants you to pause and wait on Him. You cannot hear the voice of the Holy Spirit clearly unless you slow down.
Maybe you have been blaming others for your failures instead of taking personal responsibility. Until you own up to your mistakes and negligence, you are not going to experience any breakthrough. Instead, you will keep going in circles in your wilderness.
The days are of adversity are the best opportunity for change. Transformation mostly takes place in the anvil of adversity. Notice that God always makes use of adversity to shape the character of those whom He chooses to use and prepare them for greater things. Consider Jacob, Joseph and Daniel.
RIGHT MIX OF THE DAYS OF PROSPERITY & ADVERSITY
Thirdly, God blends the days of prosperity and the days of adversity in just the right proportions. Too many blessings and we tend to become unthankful and ungrateful. Too many trials and we become discouraged and depressed. God knows just the right mix of the days of prosperity and the days of adversity to bring out the best for different individuals.
We thank God for His providential care and guidance in our lives.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua