History when written by amateurs can always be made to look inevitable. Earnest college essays often include phrases like “the North was destined to triumph,” when in fact nothing of the sort is true. People’s choices do matter. Our heroes and champions didn’t just sweep through their agendas as all opposition melted before them. In shock after the rebels’ crushing victory at Fredericksburg, President Lincoln groaned, “If there is a place worse than hell, I am in it.”
Even the great apostles and evangelists of the biblical era experienced faith-shaking, bitter setbacks: “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message” (2 Timothy 4:14,15). Intriguingly enough, God didn’t think we needed to know about that episode and didn’t include it in the book of Acts. It was enough to know that even the great St. Paul was allowed to be pushed backward at times.
Does that terrify you or bring you some degree of comfort? Have you had stretches of your life when you felt as though you were just treading water? making absolutely no headway? desperate just to survive? Those miserable times are no proof of God’s neglect. In his masterful strategic plans, you arriving in heaven is always the outcome.
God allows bitter setbacks only to keep us close to him, depending on his power and Word, and hungry for heaven.