Over the weekend, our family went to a nearby rail trail for a nice long bike ride together. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the temperature was just right for the task at hand, and some of the trees that framed the trail were turning color already. It was perfect. That is, until one of our children, who shall remain nameless, asked us when we were going to Taco Bell. My husband and I told said child that was not in the plans, as I had a roast in the Crock Pot at home. That bit of news sent him over the edge. The whining, crying, and demands that followed were not pleasant. Somehow it was our fault, because he thought we had promised this, although in fact we hadn’t, nor were any of our other children led to believe this. So for a good 10-15 minutes this blaming, crying, and sniveling went on as the rest of us tried to ignore it. The thing is that he was missing out on the beauty around him by focusing on one thing that wasn’t going to change anyhow. Thankfully, after a while, the tears subsided and he rebounded to catch back up with the rest of us and have a good time for the remainder of the trip. And wouldn’t you know it, when we got home later and sat down to eat that roast he thought would be “disgusting,” he took a bite and looked up in surprise, saying, “Wow! This is actually really good!”
So what does a kid throwing a tantrum over food have to do with you? Have you ever been in his shoes before? I’m not talking about something way back in your childhood, either. I’m talking about your adult life, complaining to God about something you deem unjust. Maybe you didn’t get that job promotion you thought you deserved, and it’s clouding the way you see everything now. Maybe your dream was to have a little white house with a wrap-around porch and a white picket fence, but you ended up in a little apartment instead. Or maybe your complaints run deeper than that. Maybe a loved one has been through radiation and chemo only to find that the cancer came back with a vengeance. Perhaps you’ve dreamed all your life of getting married and having children, only you’re still single. Or maybe you’re married and find that now you can’t have children of your own, and everyone around you seems so happy with their own families. I’m not saying that all of our complaints are as petty as my child’s Taco Bell tantrum. But they do have one thing in common—we tend to focus so much on what God hasn’t given us that we overlook the things He has given us. We take a Bible verse out of context and use it against Him. “God, look what You promised here! But You’re going back on that promise! It’s not fair!”
Look with me, for example, at a well-known passage from Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Ah-ha! we may think. See, God, you promise that You’ll work for my good in all things. But are You really doing that now? Actually, He is. He’s not promising you an easy life there, filled only with good earthly things. Elsewhere in the Bible Jesus actually promises His followers that they will have trouble in the world. We don’t like to hold God to that promise, now do we? So aren’t those two promises contradictory? Not at all.
As a parent knows what is best for his or her child, so much more does God know what’s best for His children. And as a parent can tell you, sometimes what’s best isn’t what’s easiest. It would have been momentarily easy to tell our child, “Fine, we’ll get you something at Taco Bell! Now stop crying so we can all enjoy this bike ride!” But would that have been best for him in the long-term? Of course not. It would teach him that if he cried and whined enough, he could get his own way. We would have been reinforcing bad behavior. God sees the overall picture, and He knows what is best for us and those around us in the grand scheme of life.
A few verses later, in Romans 8:32, Paul asserts, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all good things?” Paul isn’t talking about a promotion at work or a house with a picket fence, or even a life free from health concerns here. God has so much more in store for us than we can ever imagine. God promises us an impressive list of spiritual blessings that are far better than earthly blessings that will fade. In God even bad things can turn out for our good. Romans 5:3-5 illustrates this. “…[W]e also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Do you see what God is working in you? Do you see the incredible gifts He has already given you? “He has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Wow. That’s a lasting gift better by far than anything we can gain on earth.
So the next time you’re tempted to whine to God about how unfair you think your life is, remember this—God has already given up His Son for you, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, you have His love in your heart. And because of that gift of faith, you will spend eternity with Him. And when you get home to heaven, you have a feast waiting for you that’s far better than anything you can ever imagine. Even Taco Bell.
Photo is Taco Bell by Mike Mozart