Have you ever had an unexpected change in your plans? The days surrounding my Christmas vacation were pocked with many unexpected deviations from my plan. For starters, I learned why a flanged wax ring is important in a home (google that one). I was also plagued with illness which hampered my festivities, and my truck battery died on the day that I returned to work. There were many “bends in the road” that didn’t go according to my plan to maximize some much needed rest and relaxation time with family.
Admittedly, these are pretty minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things. However, they do demonstrate that any number of unplanned events can pop up in life at any given time. These unplanned events are a part of everyone’s life, and “the Preacher” of Ecclesiastes observed the same to be true in his life as well:
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. – Ecclesiastes 7:13-14
Twice in this text the term consider is used in order to challenge us to give attention to the value of understanding God’s sovereign work in our lives.
The first thing we must notice is that the text emphasizes the consideration of God’s work, not man’s work. With such an emphasis, we must consider the truth that God is sovereign. What is meant by the sovereignty of God? God’s omniscience (all-knowledgeable), omnipotence (all-powerful), and freedom combine to support the concept of God’s sovereignty, or God’s rule over all creation. One aspect not often considered is God’s complete freedom to do what He wills:
- Only God is truly free because He is inhibited by nothing
- There is no need for God to be restrained or limited because He is pure and holy
- The holiness of God ensures complete morality in His decisions
- His holiness ensures that He will not do anything contrary to His goodness
Because God is sovereign, we must consider that God has an ultimate plan which includes the lives of His people and not just major events of history. A good God has good plans for the life of each person. Within His sovereign plan there is both prosperity and adversity, both the “straight” and the “crooked.” In this context, crooked is not “perversion” or “wickedness;” it means to bend. We would commonly say that it is like a bend in the road. As we have all experienced, there are times when the path of our life turns unexpectedly and doesn’t go according to our plans. Rightly the Preacher asked, “For who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?”
For a true appreciation of this truth, we should consider the greatest example of a “crook” in a path: the cross of Jesus Christ. The event that exhibited the biggest “crook” in history, the death of Jesus who was unjustly condemned by wicked men, was turned into the greatest good for mankind through God’s sovereign plan and purpose for the salvation of all sinners (Acts 2:23; Revelation 13:8). Christ experienced a “crooked” path – won’t we likewise experience such bends in our path according to God’s plan for us?
But why? Why are there bends in our road? This great question was answered by the Preacher as well: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Not only is there an appropriate time for each event, but each one of those events is “beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God’s works are appropriate for God’s ultimate purpose in our life – to become like Christ. Suffering adversity makes us like Christ, which is why it is a part of God’s plan for us. Consider these truths:
- If God is good, then He does all things in harmony with His goodness
- If God is all-knowing, then He knows our greatest needs
- If suffering exists in our life, it must be because God knows that all people need suffering
- If even Jesus suffered, then suffering makes us like Christ
- Being like Christ is good for man and brings glory to God
The Apostle Peter said it better: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21). Becoming and being like Christ is the redemptive value that each “crooked path” affords to us in our life.
Trials are a fact of life, but the Preacher understood that life is still good despite its hardships. He stated his belief that people could still enjoy life in the midst of trials when he said, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). The two experiences, often occurring concurrently, are held in tension by the Preacher. Throughout his book, the Preacher balances the harsh realities of life with the encouragement to “eat, drink, and be merry” – a phrase which indicates that we should enjoy what God has given to us. Life is beautiful, and it is filled with beautiful people such as our loved ones and the family of God; it is filled with beautiful endeavors such as meaningful jobs, charitable efforts, and enjoyable hobbies that bring us pleasure or rest; it is filled with beautiful landscapes that demonstrate the handiwork of God. God has given both the time of adversity and the time of prosperity as parts to His sovereign plan for our lives. We must embrace both by considering the redemptive value of trials and by celebrating the good things in life.
As we make our plans for 2015, we may expect many exciting things to happen. However, no one can tell exactly what this year may bring. Perhaps you have plans that you want to fulfill this year, but the plan of God for you may include a major illness, a root canal, a new job, a new boss, the lose of your spouse, the receipt of bad news, the experience of car accident, the victimization from a crime, or the suffering of a miscarriage. God’s plan may require you to help an aging parent, to build an empty nest, to see loved ones move away, to send your son to college, or to be introduced to your future son-in-law way sooner than you hoped.
In some cases, you’ll wonder what you could have done differently. You’ll consider what life will be like in the future. You’ll ponder the changes that must take place. You’ll question whether you can trust anyone or rely on anything. You may question yourself, your Bible, your church, your pastor…yet most significantly you may doubt your God.
When you do, consider the work of God:
- Consider – the value of trials which add to our Christlikeness
- Celebrate – Life is good despite its hardships
As we stand at the beginning of 2015, let us commend ourselves into the hands of God as we walk the path that He has sovereignly designed for us.