They hadn’t been to church for a while so I gave the husband a call.
“Hey Chuck, (not his name) how are you doing? Haven’t seen you guys for a while. Is everything okay?”
After a couple uncomfortable seconds, Chuck said, “we probably won’t be coming back to church.”
“Are you serious? Really? Why? Have I done something to offend you?”
“No. You see, Mark, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. We did everything we were supposed to do. We taught our children the Bible. We took them to church. We told them about Jesus. We prayed for them. And then my son winds up getting a girl pregnant and having to get married. It just wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
I felt really sad for Chuck and his family. And I felt really sad that Chuck had the expectations of God he did and that he’d obeyed God for the reasons he did.
God doesn’t promise us trial-free lives if we obey him.
God doesn’t promise that if we keep his commands he’ll reward us with cruises and country club memberships. Tim Keller, in Prodigal God, talks about how the prodigal son’s elder brother had expectations of his father which tripped him up:
We see that the elder brother “became angry.” All of his words are dripping with resentment. The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter. Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try very hard to live up to standards.
Not only does God not owe us easy lives, but he promises we’ll suffer:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials… 1 Peter 1:6
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. James 1:2
We should not be amazed that suffer; we should be amazed we don’t suffer more than we do.
It helps me to remember that not only do I deserve any thing bad that happens to me, I deserve far worse – I deserve to burn in hell for eternity for my sins. Of course I’d never tell anyone in their sadness or suffering you deserve to be in hell so buck up, but it helps me keep things in perspective for myself when I’m tempted to complain.
So when is it appropriate to say “It wasn’t supposed to be this way?” Whenever something good happens to us! Whenever we are blessed! It wasn’t supposed to be this way – I sinned and rebelled against God – yet look how he has blessed me!
So don’t obey God thinking he’ll owe you, for God owes no one a thing. Serve him out of gratitude for all he’s done for you and because you love him. Serve him for his glory.
No, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. And aren’t you glad?