Trusting God (Part 4) – When Things Look Different
June 26, 2024 David Lessner

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Trusting God (Part 4)

“When Things Look Different?”

“This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you.  But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I got to Spain.  For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while.  At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.

So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”

-Romans 15:22-26, 28-29 NRSV

We have no Biblical evidence that Paul ever made it to Spain.

It’s possible Paul made it to Spain…but certainly not on his timeline.  There’s evidence in early Christian letters such as 1 Clement and by church leaders such as Jerome and John Chrysostom that Paul did end up in Spain around 64-66 A.D, nearly 8 years after he wrote about his desire to go there in his letter to the Romans.  In these 8 years, we know he was arrested in Jerusalem, arrested again in Rome, and feels compelled to encourage churches all over Asia Minor and support those struggling in Jerusalem.

Paul isn’t dealing with abject tragedy, but he does know a thing or two about canceled plans.

His advice when things don’t go our way?

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 :: “See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Philippians 3:4-7 :: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 6:18-18 :: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”

2 Corinthians 13:11-12 :: “Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell.  Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you.”

I suppose I COULD have included some of his teaching from the middle of the letters, but looking at the conclusion to Paul’s letters reminds us that we aren’t reading a theological textbook; we are reading someone’s mail.  Real people needing real hope by a real God – because they’ve got real problems!

Imagine the disappointment of those church planters and leaders when the people were so easily swayed by false teachings that led to hedonism and pain for others.

Imagine the heartbreak of those who didn’t hear that following Jesus is sometimes a struggle and didn’t get everything they ever wanted.

Imagine the pain of those who were looking for relationships framed by God’s unconditional grace and love and got hurt and backstabbed instead.

Although, I’m pretty sure some of y’all know how that feels.

On top of other pains.

Like job loss, child loss, loss of a parent, bullying, not living up to the expectations of others – and the list could go on.

Unhelpful Theology

Our plans get changed and canceled all the time, in big and small ways. Often, the only phrasing we can use when trying to figure out how to trust God in the disappointing times is something along the lines of:

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”


“Everything happens for a reason”

The ideas behind these two sentiments are that we should trust that the canceled plans are God’s doing for our lives, with the belief that God knows better than we do what we need – even if it hurts in the moment.

Both of these statements are misreadings of 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Romans 8:28 respectively. They are attempts to maintain God’s control over all aspects of life – especially when we don’t have control ourselves. Just like the two scriptures are read out of context, often these statements are made while only thinking about one context, which is our own, right now.

For example, someone suffering a job loss will comfort themselves by claiming “everything happens for a reason,” but if taken to extremes, does that mean their performance being subpar was God’s doing? Or the customers not buying the product? Or a downturn in the economy? Does God make people poor to prove a point or lead them to something better?

Maybe…but probably not. Jesus is not often in the business of bringing misery.

So what does Paul mean?

In short, Paul’s advice in the face of tough times is “keep going, it’ll get better, and maybe there’s something useful along the way.”

Romans 8:28 reads, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,” or alternate translations in early manuscripts read, “God makes all things work together for good.” Paul isn’t saying God makes bad things happen so that good can happen, but says that even in the midst of bad things God can bend evil to God’s will.”

If you need an example, see exhibit A: The Crucifixion.

But what was Jesus’ response to his arrest, mock trial, and sentencing to death? He maintained his faith, gritted his teeth, and expected God to move in the midst of it. I do not for one second think Jesus blessed torture or crucifixion as means to holiness, as he wanted the cup passed from him, BUT I do believe that we are blessed by Jesus’ miraculous faith in the midst of death and his ultimate conquering of death.

Paul wants his disciples to keep going, keep praying, keep hoping, and keep the faith. What he believes is that God can be found working at all times, and even if plans change, God will show up to give us work to do in the midst of change.

God will always give us purpose.

God will always give us love.

God will always give us community.

God will always provide.

Even when life throws our plans for a loop.

Paul doesn’t want us to lose our way because of a bad day. He wants us to consider bad moments just a fork in the road to a new opportunity for us to share God’s love and experience God’s goodness.

I realize this is completely based on faith. But isn’t that the idea?

May the God of peace be with you today and always. in good times and bad. And may your peace be given to God. Trusting God to care for you always.


David Lessner