How to See the Unchanging God in the Midst of Your Unchanging Circumstances
Fear of the unknown can cause us to do some crazy things. I know someone who wants more than almost anything to see Hawaii, but she’s terrified of flying. So, instead of going on her dream vacation, she chooses to stay landlocked because she’s certain she will face an ill fate should she take the leap and fly.
Fear of unknown futures can create the same crippling effect. Think about it. How many times have you looked at your current circumstances and thought if only things were different, then I’d be happy. Would you?
Looking for Happiness in Externals
Perhaps you’re facing a debilitating illness and your constant, fervent prayer is that the Lord deliver you from your pain. You continue to pray, you cry out to the Lord and you continue to trust that He is faithful to deliver you. But He hasn’t yet. Is He still good? Have you doubted His ability to deliver you or found yourself wondering if He really loves you?
Maybe health isn’t your struggle. Are you living in a difficult, unchanging situation that was caused because someone sinned against you? You desperately want out of the circumstance but know you must continue in it. Is God still good?
Or maybe you’ve dug your own mess. Are you in a difficult situation because of a poor choice you made? Did you take others down with you like your family or your church? Would you give anything to go back and change that decision? Is God still faithful, or did allowing you to sin so heinously negate His sovereignty?
God doesn’t change. Ever. He has always been, is, and always will be the same. Forever. From eternity past throughout all eternity (Psalm 102:12, 25-28; Malachi 3:6). This is the attribute known as the immutability of God. This attribute is one of God’s incommunicable attributes, meaning, it is a characteristic known only to the Triune Godhead and there are no reflections of it in mankind. God is unchanging in every way; His nature, will, being, and knowledge (this is not an exhaustive list, but a sampling).
One of the areas in which God is unchanging is His omniscience, His all-knowing knowing-ness (yes, I made this word up!). God does not change His mind (James 1:17). He doesn’t need to because He already knows everything. There is no new insight God can receive to help Him make better decisions (Isaiah 40:28; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20). Because God knows all things, He knows about your circumstances.
Let’s contrast God’s immutability and omniscience with the human propensity to change our minds. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably changed your mind hundreds of times today. Truth be told, I’ve changed my mind several times even while I’ve been sitting here writing this article. Humans are a fickle people.
Sometimes the changing of the mind is necessary and good. We certainly want to make wise decisions and God has promised wisdom to all believers who ask for it (James 1:5). Other times, the changes are about small and insignificant things like what to wear or what to have for lunch.
But, think about it - would you want to serve a God who changed His mind as often as we change ours? I wouldn’t. A Lord who is uncertain is a Lord who is untrustworthy. A Lord who can’t make up His mind is no Lord at all. Aren’t you glad you serve a Lord who is steadfast and sure? Friends, there’s a reason we chose Hebrews 6:19 as our mission statement verse here at Women’s Hope Project. There is no other hope that is an anchor for our soul because there is no other Lord that is immutable.
“Okay, Kim, that’s some great theology you’ve shared, but what does this have to do with my unchanging circumstances?” I’m so glad you asked.
If God is unchanging - and He is; if God is all-knowing - and He is; then He is necessarily trustworthy. Another attribute that we haven’t yet talked about in this article is God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty means that He is ruler over all. God’s rulership, unchangeability, and infinite knowledge all work together to give us confidence that He can be trusted.
When we are in the midst of an unchanging difficulty, we can rest in the fact that God Himself sees, knows, and has allowed this hardship for our good and His glory. I love this passage that beautifully depicts God’s sovereignty:
So, what are we to do in the midst of difficult circumstances that don’t seem like they’ll ever change? Wallow in despair? Beat our fists upon our chests in anger? Seek our own solutions because God helps those who help themselves (a concept you won’t find in Scripture anywhere)? Let’s look at a life lived well in the face of great hardship. You might know this fellow saint well…
You Meant it for Evil
Well, that sub-header was a massive spoiler alert, wasn’t it? My apologies. I hope you can forgive me after reading about our friend Joseph.
We all know the story. Joseph had a dream at the age of seventeen that he was going to rule over his brothers, father, and mother (Genesis 37:1-17). His brothers sold him into slavery in a fit of jealousy and told their father he was dead. Joseph ends up a slave in Potiphar’s house - one of Pharaoh’s officers in Egypt (Genesis 37:18-36). After being tempted by Potiphar’s wife and resisting, Joseph found himself in jail and becomes the jailer’s right-hand man (Genesis 39:1-40:23). While in jail, he shared his God-given ability to interpret dreams. Because of his interpretation gift from the Lord, he eventually became second in command over all Egypt after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41:1-49).
Joseph was thirty years old when he was placed in command in Egypt. Thirteen years had passed since his dream. Thirteen years passed since he last saw anyone in his family. And he has spent several of those years in jail - at least two that Scripture confirms (Genesis 41:1). Those were some truly difficult circumstances that Joseph probably thought would never end.
Joseph could easily have reacted in fear rather than respond in faithfulness. But we see Joseph respond with faithfulness and a right view of God’s character consistently. And when he faces his brothers who brazenly betrayed him, He offers forgiveness and reconciliation instead of bitterness and restitution. That infamous verse comes at the end of the story.
What’s the End of Your Story?
Reading Scripture, seeing everyone’s story in hindsight is a blessing to us today. But we often treat it as a curse. We rationalize our response to our suffering, thinking that the people of Scripture were some sort of super-Christian that God used to tell extraordinary tales of His power, but that’s not us. Certainly, God doesn’t expect me to exhibit that kind of faith today, does He?
Scripture tells us that is exactly what God expects (Hebrews 12:1-2). Remember God’s immutability we discussed earlier? He has not changed His means of progressive sanctification. God regularly allows, and even directs, hardships into our lives in order to refine us to greater Christlikeness. Suffering is a gift from the Lord to allow us greater fellowship with Him.
God is incrementally putting you to death so that you may know the power of His resurrection. We must die to our ideals of a smooth-sailing life simply because we added Jesus to our friends' list. My friend, if your expectation of Christianity is no different than Aladdin’s expectation of his magic lamp, you have a very wrong view of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
Joseph’s story was one of great suffering and disappointment. Yours may be similarly difficult. But he remained faithful to the end and it was worth it. I can’t promise you that your circumstances will ever change here on earth because God Himself didn’t make that promise anywhere in Scripture.
But I can remind you of a promise God did make to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). His presence in the midst of your suffering is a much greater gift than simply delivering you from your suffering. That’s why Moses said that if God’s presence didn’t go with Israel in the wilderness, that he didn’t want to go any further (Exodus 33:15). Moses knew the value of God’s presence in the midst of hardship.
What’s the end of your story? Only God knows. He has not forgotten you and He will not leave you. Trust in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to face every circumstance. After all, God has already ordained it and called it good (Romans 8:28-29).
Think About This
- What if your circumstances never change? How will you frame God’s goodness? Is He always good? Or is He only good when your life is going smoothly? (Psalm 119:68)
- Who is watching how you respond to your circumstances? Your unbelieving husband? Your church family? Your angry neighbor? Your children? How you respond to those circumstances bears witness to Christ’s power in your life. Let your response point others to Christ rather than away from Him.
- How much have you grown in the midst of your circumstances? Look back on the spiritual growth that has happened since you entered this suffering. Can you see God’s faithfulness to use the pain to give you a deeper, richer relationship with Him? If not, what needs to change in order to see the goodness of God in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13)?