Have you ever wondered, Why am I going through this? Why is this happening to me?
Why do I have to suffer? Why hasn’t my life turned out the way I thought it would? Why am I stuck in this job? In this town? In this (insert your situation).
Have you ever thought things like…I thought that when (insert event here) happened, I would be happy? I thought when I (insert: had children, got a house, got that great job, joined that wonderful church, moved to such and such a place, believed in Jesus, our kids grew up, etc) all my troubles would be over.
Why do believers go through hard times? Why does God take us through heartaches and headaches?
I thought God promised to bless us. I thought he had abundant goodness stored up for us, as he says in Psalm 31:
Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you…Psalm 31:19
God does have abundant goodness stored up for us. And he never ceases to love us and bless us. And he has the most wonderful plans for our lives. As he says in Jeremiah:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
But God’s ultimate plan for us is far more wonderful than anything we could ever have imagined when we cried out to him to save us.
When I first prayed to Jesus to save me, I was living in a cockroach infested basement apartment in Philadelphia. I was miserable. A slave of my sin. I didn’t even use the word “save” when I prayed, because I didn’t know I needed “saved.” I cried out to him to help me. Just to get me out of my misery. Little did I know the wonderful plans he had for me. Little did I know his ultimate goal for my life.
Later, I found out that Jesus did want to save me, but not simply from a self-inflicted miserable life.
God wanted to save me from my sins. From his wrath my sins deserved. And I found out that he saved me by becoming a man, living a life of perfect obedience, then taking my guilt upon himself and enduring God’s wrath in my place on the cross, so he could count his righteousness to me when he gave me faith to believe in and call on him.
I found out that one of God’s incredible plans for me was to rescue me from my sins and adopt me as his son into his family.
But I didn’t know God had other incredible plans for me.
I found out that God had plans to bless me. To bless me, yes, in a thousand different ways. To bless me with his Word and his multitudes of promises. To bless me by giving me his counsel and direction in life. To bless me with a wonderful wonderful wife, and incredible children, and to give me wonderful friends and let me serve him in a church. He blessed us by providing for us all our lives, by healing me again and again, and helping me in a thousand different ways.
But he also took me through lots of hard hard things. Family things. Things in our church. Oh man, things I never would have expected.
You know what I mean? Have you ever thought “I didn’t think it would be this way. I never thought I would find myself here. I never thought things would be like this in my family. I never thought I would have to face these trials. I never pictured my life being like this.
When God takes us through the dark valleys it’s not that he has forgotten his promises to bless us. It isn’t that God doesn’t want us to be happy and fulfilled. God takes us through many trials and “tribulations” because he has a much greater goal for us than I could ever have imagined. He has a much greater joy in store than any blessings this world can give.
So what is God’s ultimate goal for his children?
His ultimate goal is to make us like Christ. To conform us to the likeness of his Son, that we might enjoy infinite, perfect, unimaginable fellowship with him for all eternity. That we will reflect the glory of Jesus as we gaze upon his infinite majesty and worship him forever. He tells us in 2 Corinthians…
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
As we behold the glory of Christ in his word, in worship, in prayer, in fellowship, God changes us, transforms us – incredibly – “into the same image” – into the very image of Jesus, “from one degree of glory to another.” Paul told the believers in Rome:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
Someday, we will be like Christ. Conformed to the image Christ. We will radiate with his glory. We won’t be gods, but we will be like our God. And we can’t begin to imagine what that will be like. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
My Dad, J.J., who I am slowly turning into, used to say, “When I get to heaven, I won’t know who your Mom is, because we won’t recognize each other, because we will be so glorious.” To which I would reply, “Dad!! We are going to know each other. You’re not going to have to walk around heaven asking everyone, “Have you met my wife, Jonalee? I know she is up here somewhere but I don’t know what she looks like.”
But Dad knew we would all be so glorious, we won’t look like we do now. Somehow we will reflect the glory of Christ.
This is the work God began in us when he saved us. Paul told the Philippians:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
When God saved you he began a good work in you – the good work of transforming you into the likeness of his Son. That’s what God is doing in us. That’s his ultimate goal for us.
At times I have been discouraged at my many weaknesses and failures. I have said at times to Kristi, my wife, “I’m such a loser.” I’ve made so many mistakes, have so many weaknesses. Now I’m not an Eyore, and I don’t tend to wallow in self-pity. But I’m often aware of how far I have to go in this “transformation process” the Lord is doing in me.
But the good news is, no matter how much of a mess you are, God is all-powerful, and unstoppable in his power and his purposes to make each of us into the likeness of his Son. God will not fail to do what he promised. That is why Paul could say to the Corinthians, who were a real mess:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 1 Corinthians 15:49
God’s goal for you is to transform you and conform you to the image of his Son.
How does God do this? He transforms us by the power of the Holy Spirit. And he uses his Word. When we read and meditate on his word, when we listen to his Word preached. When our fellow believers encourage us and speak his word in love to us, God transforms us. He changes us as we look to him in prayer. As we obey him, as we seek to bless others, he makes us more and more like Christ.
God also uses every hard thing he takes us through to make us like Jesus.
He produces patience and perseverance in us. He produces Christlike trust in God as our Father. He teaches us to rejoice always and give thanks for everything. Whether God blesses us with abundance or brings us low his goal isn’t our temporal happiness, but our eternal joy in making us like his Son.
God is in the process of making us like Christ. His goal is to make us servants like the ultimate Servant. To make us humble like the ultimate Humble One, Jesus who though God, humbled himself and became a man. God is making us like the Obedient One, who rather than give in to temptation, trusted every word of God.
So what are you going through today? Whether you are enjoying a season of abundance and blessing, or going through the hardest time of your life, someday it will all be worth it. Someday you will be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Even if you feel like you are a mess. Like you are a modern Corinthian. Well, even if you are, you aren’t too far gone for God to change. Day after day, little by little, he will make you like his Son. And though you may fail, God will never fail.