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The first 19 years of Biff’s life were the epitome of dysfunction. Then the Lord imposed Himself into Biff’s life by regenerating him. It was a fantastic turnaround. Biff eventually joined a local church and grew leaps and bounds as the Lord impassioned him with an expansive thirst for gospel truths. The church readily embraced Biff. He loved it all and was experiencing things that were radically different than his former manner of life (Ephesians 4:22). It was an exciting time—for the most part.
Because of a few poor financial decisions, things were tightening up on the provision side of things. After discussing the best course of action with Mable, they decided she could take a job to supplement their income. She found an admin job at a local tax firm. It was perfect. Almost. Biff and Mable continued to struggle in their marriage, but they figured they were no different from anyone else. Besides, they loved God. They chose not to share their marriage problems with their church. It wasn’t that they were hiding anything; they did not have a category for appropriate, biblical transparency within a caring community.
Regrettably, after nine months into Mable’s new job, she began an affair with one of the tax guys, as Biff would call him later. They started sleeping together, and within two years, Biff and Mable divorced. Interestingly, the judge awarded Mable the children—Biffy and Biffina. It was at that point that Biff began to give up on God. His life was circling the drain, but just before he gave up ultimately, he came for counseling; we met over a few weeks, during which time Biff eventually blurted out what he only dared to think before: “I am mad at God! There, I said it.”
As I listened to Biff, I started sketching a few storyboards of what I was hearing. Part of this exercise was to help me understand what was happening, and I hoped that I could share these concepts with Biff. My ultimate hope was that we could collaborate to see what the Lord might be up to and how Biff might need to rethink what was happening to him. The infographics in this chapter represent what I sketched for Biff during counseling.
Biff knew a few things about God intellectually speaking, but functionally there were many things amiss. His “Bible study theology” believed God would take care of him because he trusted Christ for salvation. Biff was ultimately correct, though he and the Lord had two different opinions on what taking care of him meant. Biff knew bad things happen to good people, including Christians, but never connected this truth to his life. He expected disappointments in a non-cynical way, but he never thought they would be on the level of what they were in his life.
The first graphic depicts Biff’s practical theology—how he responded to God during his trial. The primary influence was his preferences, hopes, and expectations, which is why Biff blurted out his anger toward God. He was frustrated with how an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God was not giving him the life he had hoped to have (Jeremiah 1:5). “If God knows all things—omniscient, can do all things–omnipotent and is always omnipresent, why can’t He give me the life I want?” Biff could not reconcile his present circumstance with these three outstanding attributes.
Until this time, Biff was only angry at Mable, the tax guy, and the judge who granted their divorce. He never dared to think a Sovereign God would not stop what was happening to him. During his season of what appeared to be a divine time-out, these big ideas about God began to flood his mind (Psalm 42:7), and the more he tried to move them out, the more they took his mind captive (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Finally, he blurted out the actual truth that was in his heart: “God was in this, behind this, aware of this, and allowing all of this.” There was no denying it any longer.
It is wrong to believe God will not allow pain and suffering in our lives. Do you believe this? The real question is, “Can you love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength even when your life is falling apart?” It is one thing to “sign off” on biblical truth—even about suffering. It’s a radically different thing to find a peace that passes your understanding when personal sorrow is crushing your life (Philippians 4:7).
At this juncture, I began to tell Biff about another man who was surprised by suffering. He went through many heartbreaks and disappointments (Genesis 39:2). I sketched this man’s life similar to how I depicted Biff’s. Joseph loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then, all of a sudden, his life went sideways. His brothers dissed him (Genesis 37:18) and tossed him into a pit (Genesis 37:20), only to later sell him to a group of tradesmen (Genesis 37:27). His slave master’s wife dissed him and had him thrown in jail (Genesis 39:20). Joseph spent 13 years in exile, away from the family he loved. In time, he ascended to the equivalent of Vice President of the country that incarcerated him (Genesis 41:40). There was a purpose in the madness.
What Joseph did not know was that God was working His plan in the life of His people. Our loving Father needed a man that He could trust placed in Egypt. God knew there would be a famine in Israel, and because He loved Joseph and his family so much, He crafted a mind-blowing plan to save him and his family. Our Father could count on two things: (1) Joseph loved God, which made him the perfect guy to cooperate with His plan, and (2) Joseph’s brothers were a bunch of rascals, which made them the ideal people to facilitate His plan, a strikingly similar narrative that would play out in Gethsemane many years later. The Lord took one good man and many evil men and crafted a masterful plan to accomplish His purposes for His glory and our benefit.
Let’s pretend you’re looking at the earth with the Google Earth app. You can zoom in to a street-level view, and you can zoom out to where the inhabitants of the planet are not remotely discernible (Isaiah 40:22). With that concept in mind, let’s pretend you have zoomed out, spiritually speaking, as far as the human mind can perceive. (See graphic below) You are now encompassing all of time from Genesis to Revelation. What do you see? You see God’s big picture and what He said He would accomplish and that no man or power could overturn His plan (Job 23:13).
God created a man and a woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden. He commanded them regarding their responsibility to Him (Genesis 2:16-17). Shortly after that, they royally messed up the mandate (Genesis 3:6), though their sin did not deter the Lord. The Father revealed the future to Adam and Eve as He told them about the heel-biter and the head-crusher (Genesis 3:15). He promised that a seed would come forth to secure our redemption. He raised a family to carry the “seed” that would eventually bring healing to the world. That family came from a man named Abraham (Genesis 12:1). Nothing would stop God from fulfilling His promise to redeem a people.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 14:12).
Similar to Joseph, the Lord had to relocate Abraham. He was near Persia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Then Abraham had a son who had a son who had Joseph. Eventually, Abraham settled into what would become Israel. With a famine coming and a promise in play, the Lord relocated Joseph to Egypt. He needed someone headquartered in a place that could preserve the seed of the coming Savior. Egypt was the place, and Joseph was the man. From a ground-level view, it made no sense. From a God-level view, it made more sense. From an eternal view, it blows your mind at the lengths God goes to show His love to us.
God is calling us to trust Him. There is a plan, and we are part of that plan. It is so easy to want to be the author of the story rather than trust the author of the story. Our call is not to passivity or fatalism but a call to trust, which is the point of this chapter: Will you believe the author of the story that has your life written into it? If you choose to work on your plan rather than His plan, you will never find true satisfaction and will always be in a relational conflict with God (James 4:6). Trying to be the god of your life is far more complicated than trusting God with your life.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Philippians 1:29).
Though those two sentences read virtually the same, they are as far apart as heaven and hell. Be not deceived; there is a high cost for discipleship.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself (Luke 9:23-25)?
The life we live on earth is not safe, but it can be a good life. If you want to follow God, you must set aside your craving for life according to your preferences. I wonder what it would be like to interview some of the individuals who followed the Lord. I wonder how they would answer the famous C. S. Lewis question from The Chronicles of Narnia, “Did you think the Lord was safe when you walked with Him?”
God has a plan for our lives. He will not give us all the details of this divinely written plan. The Lord did not tell Joseph how his story would workout in the details or come to a redemptive end. He could not. He would not. If the Lord had told Joseph all that was going to happen, Joseph’s faith would have been in the knowledge that he would be released from prison and become Vice President of Egypt. The Lord wants us to trust Him, not the assured victory that is going to come.
God is asking us to love and follow Him by faith. Whatever is happening in your life, it’s unique. I know that, and I know that God is its author. You can further add that He loves you, and He will go to great lengths to fulfill His promise to secure your redemption while writing a script that will impact others. The two things to keep in view are that He is good, and He will use suffering as part of the process to sanctify you, glorify Himself, and practically help many souls.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).