All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. [God] does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35
We have all heard that hindsight is 20/20. After time passes, we gain perspective and begin to understand why the things that we were counting on didn’t work out. We know now why a certain prayer wasn’t answered exactly the way that we had wished. Once there is some distance between us and the circumstance, most things become clear. For the rest, we will understand it “by and by.” But, when you’re in the middle of it, it’s a whole other story.
When we’re dealing with a problem, our perspective is more 20/200. We lose sight of our goals. We tend to question God’s character. Sometimes, we even wonder if we’ll actually survive. In these times, we need our friends to be for us and to pray for us. We don’t need a great deal of advice or quoted Scripture for that matter.
When my wife and I were in the thick of it with our first child in intensive care, by the grace of God no one quoted Romans 8:28 to us. While I believe that verse, I would have told that person what they could do with it. In the middle of a problem, the tunnel looks dark in both directions. But, even in dark circumstances, there are glimpses of hope.
Daniel was exiled with the Israelites in a foreign land. This was far different than being shut up in your house for two days because of snow. To the best of his knowledge, Daniel and every other Israelite would spend the rest of their lives in captivity. It would have been easy to question the promises of the Promised Land. To Daniel and the others, it certainly felt like broken promises.
In the middle of Daniel’s darkness, God gave Daniel some needed perspective: “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. [God] does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35). It sounds like we’re right back to being “dust in the wind” again. But, consider what Daniel is saying.
Sure the Israelites in captivity are nothing. But, the captors are also nothing in comparison with God. “God does as He pleases.” God is a big boy. He can take care of Himself. And, He can take care of us.
We don’t understand all of the why’s to all of the what’s about God’s work. But, we can understand that God is good (Psalm 73:1) and that God has our best interest at heart (Luke 12:7). His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Thank God for that.
Now, while you’re fixin’ to “encourage” your friends with God’s word, get this: this revelation came to Daniel directly from God. Often we think that we’re helping others, when we are actually coming across more like Job’s “friends.” Even with the best of intentions, these “blessings” will not be received as such. We can be there for each other and pray for each other, but we need to hold back on the advice giving.
The other side of this is that God wants to encourage you. God wants to encourage you in your situation. God wants to encourage you in a particularly personal way. To receive God’s encouragement, we only need to listen to Him. How do we know if it’s God? Well, if it doesn’t contradict God’s Word, then you’re on the right track.
As Thomas Merton put it, “The ever-changing reality in the midst of which we live should awaken us to the possibility of an uninterrupted dialogue with God. We must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good” (From New Seeds of Contemplation).
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