Get Thee to Middle School
Here’s the truth …
“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on the things that cannot be seen. For the thigs we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT).
A long time ago, I applied for a job as a writing professor that I figured was mine for the taking. I had been teaching at a private college part time for six years, grading mediocre essay after mediocre essay, working one on one with absent students so that they wouldn’t get behind, using every visual aid I could to ensure that writing made sense to non-traditional adults who hadn’t written formally in years. I had certainly paid my dues. Nevertheless, I did not get the job; I didn’t even get an interview for it. And the way I was told was through an email containing typos from the chief writing professor there. What a stab in the back, Brutus! That was so much more than a closed door. It felt like a slam with the frame pulling away! Why would God get me through a rigorous doctoral program so that I could teach at the college level only to be told “no” when the perfect full-time opportunity came?
That was just one of many answers of “no” that I have experienced over the years. I think we believe that if we pray hard enough, God, who loves us so much, will surely answer with a resounding “yes!” It’s because He loves us so much, though, that He protects us from things we can’t even see coming. We know from His Word that we shouldn’t “look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on the things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT). Thus, He does not always answer “yes,” and we are in good company when His “no” gets directed our way.
After all, He didn't even answer “yes” to Jesus when Jesus asked if there could be a different way other than dying on the cross for our sins. He answered “no” to Paul who would beg to have a thorn in his flesh removed to no avail. And Daniel received his “no” upon finding himself inside the Lion’s den, even after praying and praising God three times a day.
Daniel was targeted by the other officers and administrators because he had “proved himself more capable” than they were and was about to be placed in charge of the entire empire (Daniel 6:3 NLT). God could have intervened long before Daniel was actually with his feline friend. To review, Daniel was headed there because he made it clear that he would only worship God and not King Darius, despite the newly-mandated law. Couldn’t God have made some miracle happen to keep Daniel from even having to walk inside of that den? If He had, though, His glory would not have been revealed so publicly when Daniel emerged unscathed the next morning, something that was an even greater miracle because it certainly got people’s attention in a much more positive way than if Daniel had gotten to escape the den entirely. Also, the king loved Daniel and tried to think of a way to save him from the consequences of breaking his new law. If his intervention had helped, all glory would have gone to the king instead of to God.
Sometimes God allows a situation for which we can't possibly have the right solution because he doesn't expect us to be the one to fix anything. If Daniel had fixed things, he would have had to sin by praying to King Darius, by no longer praying to God, and by eating foods that went against his beliefs. If Daniel had caved, we’d identify with him easily for giving into his sinful nature.
Instead, we see that there was no way Daniel would be able to fix this problem in his own strength, except by sinning. So, we now have a story of how God “rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV) instead of an umpteenth story of sinning. It's such a wonderful example of how sinning doesn't have to be the answer to our problems, ever. God always provides a way out when we are tempted to sin.
When I think back on that season of rejection, I become more aware than ever of why I didn’t get that professor job. That same year, I had met a woman at the gym I never would have joined with such a grueling professor schedule. Within a year or so of the onset of our friendship, my workout buddy became a believer, a fellow sister in Christ.
I also ended up getting a job at a large public middle school in reading intervention. In that very dark place, a light named Raymond seemed to rely on my presence there. He came to me for encouragement, and I helped him to see that God had big plans for his life and not to let anyone who was part of the darkness get him down.
I also was available to my cousin who needed someone he could trust to watch his toddler while he and his wife went on a mission trip to Bulgaria. His wife had served as a missionary there for years before they were married, and she had follow-up activities planned that they desperately wanted to finish unencumbered. Had I been a professor, I could never have been able to offer them my home for their child during that time so that they could focus on their mission.
For many, joining a gym at God’s prompting, returning to middle school, or babysitting a toddler would seem like a death sentence. God showed me, though, that my discouraging college “no” would turn into an encouraging “yes” for others who needed clarity for their uncertainty. So, although we may not understand it at the time, I bet we can agree that there is no greater answer than a “no” from God. Scripture indeed reminds us that He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).
… and that’s the truth as I know it!