Safe in the Hands of God
By Dan Siemens
No one relishes the awful feeling we have when we face threatening circumstances in life over which we have little, or no, control. This is especially true in situations where we become undeserving recipients, reaping negative consequences which are the result of someone else’s poor decision-making or ill will. Yet the Gospel story tells us that Jesus had to face this very thing in his journey toward the cross. Romans 8:32 tells us, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all.”
When Jesus was given up and handed over to his enemies, he willingly allowed his life to be put in jeopardy-totally beyond his personal control. And while it’s true that Judas was the one who actually betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders at Gethsemane, there was another working behind the scenes who was actively supportive of the Messiah’s capture. As the Scripture above reveals when it is literally translated, Jesus Christ was in fact, handed over to his enemies by his Father. And in response, Jesus embraced his Father’s will on behalf of us all.
Henri Nouwen in his book, Finding My Way Home, explains how Jesus’ passion was not only the agony of his approaching death. It was also the agony of being out of control and having to wait for the responses of others. Would they betray or follow him?
Choosing to trust God while unfairly reaping the inescapable consequences of another’s action or inaction, decision or indecision, provides our hearts with the opportunity to deepen the vital truth of Romans 8:28: ” And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Father God is always, in all things, creatively working for the good of those who continually abide in genuine relationship with him. There are times when we may undergo specific kinds of suffering according to his purpose. We can see that the next verse, Romans 8:29, goes on to say that God’s purpose in all things is that we be “conformed to the likeness of his Son.” However, the ultimate intent of the Spirit’s conforming action upon us is so that we may authentically incarnate and outwardly express the nature of his Son in response to all of the circumstances that are thrust upon us in life.
When we experience the pain of being acted upon, it is important to understand that there is nothing in the Gospels that indicates that Jesus ever deliberately sought suffering. We must not embrace a kind of pseudospirituality that actually sees some sort of spiritual merit or power when we undergo the pain itself.
When we face times of unnerving vulnerability and suffer agonizing helplessness in our circumstances, we must direct our hearts to believe that God’s creative purpose for our lives can never be thwarted-especially by the action or will of another. We also learn that, sometimes, fulfilling God’s redemptive purpose in a given circumstance will not necessarily be accomplished by our direct action, but rather, by our being acted upon. We can be assured that the Father’s grace, rest, and peace is able to sustain us in that place.
Dan Siemens, along with his wife Denise, is on staff at Lutheran Renewal.