Many of you know that I used to work for the Church of God Department of Lay Ministries. One of my colleagues, who did most of the graphic design work, was a good friend in addition to being a coworker. Sometimes he’d greet me with the phrase, “Things going your way?”
It’s an easy way to say “how are you” because you just assume that, if things are going your way, they’re good. But the more I think about it the more I realise that there’s something missing here. The assumption that, if things are going your way they’re going the way they should, needs some review. I was raised in an environment where I was told that it really didn’t matter whether things went your way or not; you just dealt with what was thrown at you. Finding out that much of the world doesn’t see it that way–especially Christians–has been a life long struggle.
No where is this more evident than full gospel Christianity, with prosperity teaching following. The idea is very current that, if you’re in God’s will, things will be going your way. If they’re not, something is wrong with you. Many people who experience adversity decide that it isn’t them, and that’s the unrolling theodicy disaster we’re seeing now. The practical application of this is that people–Christians and others–are conditioned to go to pieces when things don’t go their way. We’ve seen this play out in the past year with the COVID pandemic, but it antedates that. This kind of attitude makes life in the U.S. very difficult to endure.
Such an attitude is profoundly unBiblical, and the whole story of the Passion and what follows shows this. From Palm Sunday things go downhill for Our Lord. First Judas sneaks off, first to make the deal with the Jewish leadership and then to make good on that deal. The other disciples are erratic at best; they can’t stay awake when Our Lord needs them the most and bail on him when the going gets tough. He endures gruesome torture and ultimately death by crucifixion, taunted by things like this: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the ‘King of Israel’! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He has trusted in God; if God wants him, let him deliver him now; for he said ‘I am God’s Son.'” (Matthew 27:42-43 TCNT)
But then things change: he rises from the dead, turns disciples into apostles by commissioning them to take the good news to the world, ascends into heaven, and sends the Holy Spirit to start the church. (The church, sadly, has tried to do the job without the Paraclete, and has the results to show it.)
The lesson of this is simple: just because things aren’t going your way just now doesn’t mean that they aren’t going God’s way. Our first objective in our walk with God is to follow him, not to expect him to follow us. When we do that we can find the happiness he has for us, both here and on the other side.