The Problem with Good Times

by Shea Oakley

"In every crisis of life, as represented in the Old Testament as well as in the teaching of our Lord, this aspect of God is emphasized: ‘God is our refuge'; yet until we are hit by sorrow it is the last thing we seek for God to be…."
-Oswald Chambers

That many of us do not greatly desire to be near to God except when we are in the place of trouble is one the most tragic ironies of the Christian life.

We are left wondering what perverse aspect of our nature causes us to so easily forget during good times the One that redeemed us during the bad ones. The reality of this tendency seems so counter-intuitive. One might think that we would be joyfully thankful for such periods of smooth sailing in a life more often marked by storms. Why would a believer not feel closer to God than ever during days of sunshine?

The fact is that the world, the flesh, and the devil are always lulling us back into a sense of complacency marked by a decreased sense of our constant need for intimacy with, and dependence on, our Creator. Even the best Christian is liable to forget God when God's blessings are taken for granted. Whatever the theological reason is for a child of God being susceptible to such "forgetfulness" it happens to most of us and it happens often. I have known few believers who have not experienced this phenomenon.

Perhaps the answer lies in the part of our hearts that remain un-surrendered even after a "dark night of the soul" experience. The degree to which we stop thinking about God when times are good may well be determined by how much of our attention has been captured by Him when times are bad. C.S. Lewis once called pain "God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world" but even pain does not purify a wandering soul overnight. It may be that only repeated times of trial are sufficient to wrench us from earthly comfort and cause us to finally seek God as our all in all. This is not a particularly pleasant thought, to be sure, but it does seem to reflect the reality of a sanctification process that takes a lifetime.

If this is indeed true then we are in a sense more genuinely blessed in the valley than we are on the mountaintop. If easy periods in our present existence tend to lead to a spiritual drift embodying the lie that we can find our final fulfillment here rather than in heaven then the only thing that can reawaken us to our desperate need for a life centered on God is the return of trials and tribulations. Only they can remind us that this place is not our home.

The greatest saints of church history have always known this. Such individuals came to essentially view themselves as "strangers in a strange land." They did not necessarily disdain earthly pleasures, but they always kept them in a perspective formed by this knowledge. They knew the secret to contentment in any and every circumstance that Paul spoke of, a contentment that is not based on temporal life on Earth as much as eternal life in Christ.

I cannot presume to know exactly how each of us can gain such perspective, but I suspect it comes with time, suffering and hearts decisively willing to let that suffering do the work God intends for it to do. As we go through this process we may even come to a place of thankfulness and devotion that remains both in season and out of season. Then, whether we are in good times or bad, we may learn not to forget the One who is the Lord of both.

Copyright 2007 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved

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