Contradictory Truths, Part Two

God often delivers His best gifts to us in unexpected ways . . . with surprises inside the wrappings. Through apparent contradictions. Somewhat like the therapy He used when Elijah was so low, so terribly disillusioned.

How did the Lord minister to him? By an earthquake? In a whirlwind? Through a scorching fire? You'd expect all the above since Elijah was such a passionate, hard-charging prophet. But no. The story from 1 Kings 19 makes it clear that Jehovah was not in the earthquake or the wind or the fire. Too obvious. Too predictable. That's not the Sovereign's style.

After all the hullabaloo died down, there came "a gentle blowing" and shortly thereafter, ever so softly, "a voice" came to him (vv. 12–13) with words of reassurance and affirmation. Not, "You oughta be ashamed of yourself!" Or "What's a man of your stature doing in a crummy place like this?" None of that. No blame, no shame, no sermon, no name-calling, no blistering rebuke. In contradiction to the popular idea of confrontation (and surely surprising to Elijah himself), the Lord encouraged His friend to go on from there. He gave him a plan to follow, a promise to remember, and a traveling companion to help him make it through the night.

Another mysterious back-door delivery . . . another victim of despair rescued from the pit. No wonder Paul burst forth in praise of God's wisdom and knowledge by exclaiming:

How unsearchable are His judgments . . . [how] unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33b)

About the time we think we've got the whole picture in finite focus, an infinite hand quickly grabs the camera, changes lenses on us, points in another direction, and has us take an entirely different picture. Yet to our amazement, when everything is developed, we get the one thing we wanted all our lives through a process we would never have chosen.

It's like the anonymous poet's profound admission:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for,
But everything I had hoped for.

I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Just when we've got the picture in focus, God may point us in another direction.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.

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