In 1956, five missionaries, all young men with families, died at the hands of the Waodani natives in the jungles of Ecuador. Jim Elliot was among those who died by the spears of the people they were trying to save. Much of the world was riveted by the news reports of the five missing men, the search for them in the remote jungle, and especially by the pictures of the five women and the families hearing the details of the deaths and recovery of their husbands and fathers (below right). The radio transmissions from the searchers as they discovered the bodies of the men, killed by spear wounds, were wrenching.
Jim Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, and the sister of the pilot killed with Jim returned to those same people and devoted years to leading many of them to true faith in Jesus. The Waodani people realized that they had killed people friendly to them, and later many of them turned to faith in Christ in part because of the kindness of the people they had killed and their kin.
Elisabeth Elliot knows the pain of searing loss, difficulty, and hardship. Listen to what Elisabeth Elliot has to say about God’s control and character: “We have to ask ourselves repeatedly, especially when the dark times come, ‘Do I really believe this? Do I still believe this? Do I really believe that God is governing this world and everything that touches me with perfect wisdom, justice, and love?” He who keeps us neither slumbers nor sleeps. His love is always awake, always aware, always surrounding and upholding and protecting. If a spear or a bullet finds its target in the flesh of one of His servants, it is not because of inattention on His part. It is because of love.”
Every trial, set-back, difficulty, or disappointment comes out of His perfect love for us. He either causes them or ordains their occurrence because He loves us perfectly. These events pass through His all-knowing hands, for a purpose that both glorifies Him and benefits us. Nothing is trivial in life, and nothing is a coincidence. Our God is using every circumstance, every cancelled or delayed flight, every cancer diagnosis, every death of a loved one, to further His glory on earth and His work in us. He is strengthening us and preparing us for an eternity with Himself. He intends that no sorrow or loss is wasted. No difficulty is unnecessary to His will for us.
AW Tozer, in his book, “Jesus, Author of our Faith,” wrote: “We can always be sure of the most important of all positives: God is God and God is right. He is in control. Because He is God He will never change! I repeat: God is right-always. That statement is the basis of all we are thinking about God. When the eternal God Himself invites us to prepare ourselves to be with Him throughout the future ages, we can only bow in delight and gratitude, murmuring, “Oh, Lord, may Your will be done in this poor, unworthy life!” I can only hope that you are wise enough, desirous enough and spiritual enough to face up to the truth that every day is another day of spiritual preparation, another day of testing and discipline with our heavenly destination in mind.”
What makes these events difficult for us is not the event itself, rather it is our response to the event. So often we are self-focused, hoping in temporal circumstances. When will we learn that the world will bring us only trouble, not good. If we are seeking good in our circumstances, we will find disruptions, difficulties, and set-backs to be discouraging and painful. Worse, we will miss God’s love and purposes in our most difficult events.
We can be assured that every circumstance is for our good. In the book, “Success and the Christian,” Tozer wrote: “The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will. If I’m out of His will, that is another matter. But if I’m in His will, He’s sworn to keep me… I’m not too badly worried because a person who dies of cancer in the will of God, is not injured; he’s just dead. You can’t harm a person in the will of God.”
I believe that our God intends that we not be worried, frightened, confused, or disappointed by the events and circumstances in our lives. I believe His will for us is that we come to acceptance of all events, no matter how joyous or how difficult, as gifts of love from our God. If we can see all our circumstances in this way, we can experience joy, peace, and growth in these events.
Photos public domain.