One afternoon in July, I received an alarming phone call. My good friend Bob was up doing some repairs on a roof on one of his son’s farm buildings when he stepped through some rotten wood and fell twelve feet to the ground. Bob (who is supposed to be retired) is 74 years old, and I feared the worst.
What happened was a remarkable turn of events. His granddaughter, who was on the roof with him, was completely unhurt. His sons were both on the spot and called for an ambulance. And it so happened that the air ambulance was passing more or less overhead on its way back to our local hospital. The land ambulance arrived, the air ambulance landed in a nearby field, and between all the paramedics they got Bob into the helicopter and 45 minutes or so later he was in a teaching hospital in the city of London.
He broke pretty well all his ribs, plus an assortment of bones elsewhere, yet amazingly his head and spine were completely undamaged. The first few days, he looked pretty rough, to say the least, yet he quickly improved and now, only three months later, the only sign anything happened to him is the fact he’s shaking hands with his left, as the right hand is still sore.
And so my question is this: in those moments immediately before Bob fell, did God have a plan? It’s easy to see how God had a plan afterward, involving the ambulance and the outstanding medical care, and it’s easy to see how God protected Bob from what could otherwise have been fatal injuries.
Yet the question remains: did God have a plan before the accident? Why could he not have prevented it?
It’s really the same question asked of Jesus when he turned up way too late to save his friend Lazarus. “Couldn’t he who opened the eyes of the blind man have saved Lazarus from dying?” was what the people were saying.
And I think that story gives us the answer, or at least part of the answer, for things that happen to folk like Bob. The plan God had after Lazarus’ death sheds light on the plan he had before Lazarus’ death.
Jesus gave the clue with this simple statement: “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
Understandably, you and I focus on asking God to protect us from harm and give us the happiest life possible. God is committed to protect us in the deepest, spiritual sense, but he is committed to his glory more than to our happiness.
So when bad things happen to us, we have the choice of blaming God and becoming angry or depressed, or asking God how he wants to work out his glory through our pain.
In Bob’s case, God was glorified in his protection of Bob from worse injury, in his provision of an air ambulance and terrific doctors, in his amazing recovery, and in the way Bob and his wife Joanne and family made the choice to honour and give thanks to him throughout the process.
Now they have a story to tell, to God’s glory.
There are times when it is impossible for us to figure out why God had done this or allowed that. There are times (please read the blogs posted on this website in the last couple of weeks from Jan Vickers) when all you can do is trust in God’s goodness amidst the battle, and know that in eternity, we always win.
But in the meantime, never, ever doubt that God has a plan.
And when his glory comes about even in the midst of your pain, the end result will be blessing for you far above and beyond what any earthly superficial happiness can ever bring.
So let us let his glory come in your life and mine.
A dangerous prayer, but the very best one to offer.
And remember this: no matter what, Jesus is always worth following.