Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Benefit of the Doubt, or a Good Interpretation of God's Ways

I beseech you to observe this [point], though you should forget many of the others: Make a good interpretation of God's ways towards you. If any good interpretation can be made of God's ways towards you, make it. You think it much if you have a friend who always makes bad interpretations of your ways towards him; you would take that badly....
When God deals with us otherwise than we would have him do, if one sense worse than another can be put upon it, we will be sure to do it. Thus, when an affliction befalls you, many good senses may be made of God's works towards you. You should think thus:
  • it may be, God intends only to try me by this,
  • it may be, God saw my heart was too much set on the creature, and so he intends to show me what is in my heart,
  • it may be, that God saw that if my wealth did continue, I should fall into sin, that the better my position were the worse my soul would be,
  • it may be, God intended only to exercise some grace,
  • it may be, God intends to prepare me for some great work which he has for me:
thus you should reason.
But we, on the contrary, make bad interpretations of God's thus dealing with us, and say, God does not mean this; surely, the Lord means by this to manifest his wrath and displeasure against me, and this is but a furtherance of further evils that he intends toward me! Just as they did in the wilderness: 'God hath brought us hither to slay us.' This is the worst interpretation that you can possibly make of God's ways; oh, why will you make these worst interpretations, when there may be better? In 1 Corinthians 13:5, when the Scripture speaks of love, it says, 'Love thinketh no evil.' Love is of that nature that if ten interpretations may be made of a thing, nine of them bad and one good, love will take that which is good and leave the other nine. And so, though ten interpretations might be presented to you concerning God's way towards you, and if but one is good and nine bad, you should take that one which is good, and leave the other nine.
 ~Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, beginning from Kindle location 3087 (some formatting mine)

The above passage from my bedtime reading selection (for lo, these many months) reminded me of one more reason to keep counting God's gifts. When the "big things" in life seethe with turmoil and the heart's deepest cries seem to go unanswered, the soul can be sorely tempted to "make a bad interpretation" of God's ways. I know that place of waiting for the other shoe to drop, only to find it's raining shoes of trials. (Elsewhere in the book, Burroughs addresses that very tendency of trials to come in groups, rarely one at a time.)

For me, the intentional choice to focus on God's good gifts, even if they seem "small things" or "otherwise than we would have Him do," bolsters my trust that He is up to something good. Gratitude reorients my sinful predisposition to grouse and murmur towards praise instead.

Putting the best interpretation I know on the last 2 weeks, I thank You, Lord,
for You are good;
for Your steadfast love endures forever;
for the crown of life awaiting the one who perseveres under trial (James 1:2-4);
for the way You cause all things to work together for good to those who love You;
for Your love, from which nothing and no one can separate me (Romans 8);
for Your power made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12);
for the weight of glory wrought by these momentary afflictions (2 Cor. 4);

for strength, provision, and transportation for 8 medical appointments in 10 days;
for strength for extra church services in that same period;
for clear, united guidance towards a pain injection in my spine next week;
for Amore's recovery from weekend illness;
for Mom's doctor diagnosing and planning treatment for shoulder pain;
for Terza's cast removal;
for an all clear from my six-month skin cancer check;
for disappointing results from 2 recent medication changes;

for a timely sermon reminding me not to lose heart;
for hope of a new pastor soon for a faithful church;
for Mezzo's graduation celebration;
for a new dog in the family;
for a meal with Nonni;
for the first hummingbird sighting;
for a lone black butterfly in the garden;
for the first hollyhock in bloom.

For these things and more, I thank You, Lord.
(culled from the gratitude journal, #85-286)

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