A couple of months ago, my friend Tim was in Africa with his family, adopting a child, and his computer was stolen. My friend is a pastor, and he had 10 years of sermons, blog posts, lesson plans, etc. on there. Not only was his computer stolen; but also his backup was stolen.
There he was, in Africa, trying to glorify God through preaching and adopting a child, and this awful thing happened.
I can tell you what my response to that would have been. I’d have walked around in a daze, alternately crying, tuning out the world, and praying for retribution to come raining down on the thief’s head. I once had my work computer stolen, and that was bad enough – but to have 10 years of sermons and book plans and life’s work just gone…it kills me just thinking about it.
But that wasn’t his response. Tim said, “If I needed those things to glorify God in the future, then He wouldn’t have taken it.”
Dang, dude. Re-read that response.
My friend Tim had great plans to glorify God with the contents of the computer. He was planning to turn some of his God-glorifying plans into books that could take the Gospel to the nations. He was planning to do sermon prep on it for his time in Africa. He was writing blog posts on it that updated family and friends on the adoption process.
But now he couldn’t, and God was supposed to be MORE glorified without this tool?
But why? He and I wanted to do GOOD THINGS with that content, like publish more books. It’s not like we were out for self-glory or gratification. We were planning to glorify God! We know God is great and mighty and holy, and we are sinful and wretched and helpless without Him. We wanted to take that message to the world (or at least to the 5 people who would read the books, haha). So how could God think it was better to take that material away from us?
I processed this idea for weeks, and I had to make a shift in my way of thinking about God vs. my plans. Here are some truths that began to seep into my soul:
- God is SO BIG that He will get his glory, with or without one man’s computer.
- He will be glorified through His own plans, not through mine or my friend’s.
- Whatever we plan for good, God has a better idea of what should happen, just like
- Mary at the foot of the cross – if she’d gotten the desire of her heart (for Jesus to come off the cross), it would not have for her eternal good.
- Mary Magdalene at the tomb – if she’d gotten the desire of her heart (the dead body of Jesus), it would have been the worst thing ever in the history of all time and space.
We can know that God is serious about His glory by looking at the Bible. He made the whole world in such a way that everything would be a testament to Himself and His greatness – not a monument to the creativity of humans.
When humans sinned and tarnished the world (Genesis 3), He still wanted them to bring Him glory, so He made a way to do so. He sent His son Jesus to come live as a human, then die a sinner’s death, and rise from the dead – solely by the power of God, so God’s glory could be on display to every at that time and ever since.
God became a man. Then He died. Then He un-died. If that’s not glorious to you, we need to have a talk.
Not long after Tim’s computer was stolen, he and his wife decided through much prayer and soul-searching and Bible-reading that they were going to leave their beautiful Ugandan daughter in Africa, with her biological family.
It turned out that her family loved her very much and just thought they couldn’t support her and her sister. So Tim and his wife Abbey decided instead to support this little girl (who had been theirs for about 6 months) and her biological sister through an organization that supports African children. And then they came home without her.
They gave her back to her family because they trusted that God was more glorified through their obedience than through their adoption. They trusted that more people’s hearts would be pointed to God’s story of sin and redemption this way than the way they preferred; they entrusted their own hearts to a faithful and good God, who knows what it’s like to have a broken heart – because He had been a human once Himself.
It’s a long story, but because of their obedience to God in this matter, the Gospel was spread to a random tiny Muslim village in Africa in a super tangible way that will resonate in that community for at least a generation or two. And guess what? God didn’t need Tim’s computer in order to do that. All He needed was Tim and Abbey’s obedience.
I’m not saying that God’s plan doesn’t hurt. I’m not saying it’s easy or even pleasant all of the time. But His plan always, always, always includes the spread of His glory.
It’s easy for me to see how God is glorified in Tim’s story, with the loss of his computer and the loss of his daughter. But it’s a lot harder to see how God is glorified in my own life, specifically in my singleness.
I know that God is worthy of all worship and praise, and He will be glorified no matter what. So I get into funks sometimes where I think,
“God, if you would just listen to me and give me what I want, You would be so much more glorified.”
“Sure, I know I’m ministering to single people through this blog or whatever, but think of how much more effective for the Gospel I could be if you gave me a husband to serve beside!”
“I would be living out the story of Christ and His church if you gave me a husband – so what are you waiting for?”
I sometimes forget that God is more interested in glorifying Himself than He is about giving me what I want. It was really hard, actually, for me to conclude that if God needed me to be married in order for Himself to be glorified, then I would be married.
So I must somehow be glorifying Him now by not being married. Somehow, in ways He only knows, I’m serving the purposes of the kingdom of God better right now by being a single woman with a roommate and a career, than I would by being a married woman with a husband and kids.
I don’t…I don’t want to think that, you know? I want to think that God is maybe wrong this time – that one day, He’ll realize His mistake and be like, “Oh yeah, sorry, I need to work on getting you that husband now. I’ll get back to you in a couple of months when he’s finished.”
I don’t want to think that my desires are like Mary Magdalene’s – good as far as I can tell, but the worst thing ever as far as God can tell.
While it’s not nice to think of God taking away (or denying) the things that we want to use to bring him glory, it’s really quite nice to think that God had plans to turn our losses (like computers) into gains and our lost dreams (like marriage and children) into something more wonderful/beautiful than we can imagine.
I pray that I’ll know and trust God so well that when I hear His voice, I will worship at His feet instead of arguing about where His dead bones are.