One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
A Sight of Wonder
Before the world shut down for COVID-19, my family and I got the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. If you haven’t been able to experience this, I beg you to put it on your list of places to go. Nothing I have ever seen or experienced more clearly demonstrates the beauty of God’s creation. There’s something surreal about looking across a mile-deep expanse that millions of other eyes have gazed upon over thousands of years and knowing that the same One who created it also created you. Pictures simply don’t do it justice.
In 2019, almost six million people visited Grand Canyon National Park.1 I imagine that, during the peak seasons at the Grand Canyon, the experience is very different than what we found when we visited in February. For us, the parking lots were empty. The restaurants and hotels were nearly vacant. The trails were deserted. We were fortunate to travel there on an off-peak season, so we basically had place to ourselves.
The Down Side
There’s a reason not many people go in February. It’s cold. Not just “cold for Arizona” cold. Like, it’s cold even for someone from the upper Midwest. So, although the number of people there didn’t limit our trip, there were simply some parts of the Grand Canyon we couldn’t enjoy. The trails were icy, and some parts of the park were closed for the season. But February was when we could go, so we bundled up and made the best of it. The cold didn’t diminish the beauty of the Grand Canyon, but it did alter how we experienced it.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. My family certainly experienced that beauty together. The lives God has granted us are beautiful. But not all at once. Because God makes everything beautiful in its time.
The Disappointment Gap
I’m not naïve enough to think that it’s easy to see beauty in every situation. When facing situations of intense loss and suffering, it almost seems counter-intuitive and insensitive to encourage people to look for the beauty. We read the words of Romans 8:28 that tell us In all things God woks for the good of those who love him. And, ignoring the context of the verse, we get disappointed in God when things aren’t easy in our lives. When things get tough, we have the tendency to feel that God has failed us.
In his book Crash the Chatterbox, Steven Furtick explains that “disappointment is the gap between what [you] expect and what [you] experience.”2 Satan tries to use this gap created by disappointment to make us doubt God’s love and promises for our lives. When we’re not we’re not seeing the beauty in our lives, when we feel the disappointment and heartache of living in a sin-wrecked world, we’ve got to pause and recognize the gap that’s causing the disappointment.
What God Really Promises
God doesn’t promise that life will be easy. But he does promise to be with us through it all. In Psalm 23:4, David tells us, Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Pastor Ben Sadler explains: “David assumes that he will walk through dark valleys. David assumes that the curse of sin affects even God’s chosen servants. But David will not fear because he believes that God is with him. That is what God promises us over and over again in Scripture. He promises his loving presence. He is here.” 3
Like David, we can assume we are going to face trials. We live in a sin-wrecked world, so life can’t be perfect. But James tells us how we can view these challenges and what we can expect through these trials: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). God uses difficulties to refine us, to strengthen our faith, and to help us grow closer to Him.
Filling the Gap
Once we recognize this gap between God’s actual promises and what we want him to promise to us, we have to start filling up the gap. What do we fill it up with? God, of course. Furtick explains, “Allowing God to fill your gaps means refusing to pretend the gaps don’t exist. But it also means refusing to attempt to fill the gaps in ways – or with people – that can’t get the job done. Only God is big enough to fill the gap.”2
So how can God fill the gap? Because Jesus has authority over all things. His authority gives us confidence to share his goodness with others, and it gives us humility to recognize we can’t do life on our own. Pastor Bill Limmer explains: “No evil is outside of God’s glorious control in your life. Nothing can rob you of the confidence that God is working in all things for the good…No matter what your circumstances, where you are at, what you have done, what you are facing, who you are facing, the sovereign God has present authority.”4
When we meditate on God’s word, when we worship Him, when we cast all our cares on Him… that’s when we’re letting God fill the gaps of our lives and allowing Him to show us His goodness and beauty.
The Beauty is There
I’d be lying if I said all the parts of our trip were beautiful. We got colds from others on the plane. Traveling with kids can be challenging. And did I mention it was freezing cold? But, now that we’re home, looking at pictures and reflecting on the time we shared, it is hard to see anything but beauty. Whether we always recognized and appreciated the beauty of our trip, it was still there.
While you’re in a tough spot, you may not see the beauty of it. In fact, you might never find the purpose of your difficult times at any point in your earthly life. There are certainly some situations in my life where I just don’t understand why events played out the way they did. But even in the darkest, coldest times, God is there with you, bringing in beauty through the peace and comfort he gives his people always.
1 National Parks Service. (27 February 2020). National park visitation tops 327 million in 2019. National Park Service Office of Communications. Retrieved on 9 April 2020 from https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/2019-visitation-numbers.htm
2 Furtick, S. (2014). Crash the Chatterbox. New York, NY: Multnomah Publishing. Pages 175-177.
3 Sadler, B. (18 March 2020). What God actually promises. Grace and Purpose blog. Retrieved on 9 April 2020 from http://www.pastorbensadler.com/2020/03/18/what-god-actually-promises/
4 Limmer, B. (28 July 2019). Promises: Present authority. Promises, Promises sermon series. Retrieved on 9 April 2020 from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/im-always-there/