We’ve all had those times in the car when suddenly we hit something totally unexpected. Our mind immediately thinks, What was that!? Most likely, one of our first reactions is quickly to look in the rear-view mirror to see what it was that caused this jolt. We can learn from this illustration when hardships suddenly come jolting into our lives.
Life is not a nice smooth freeway. It’s full of speed bumps and potholes. The good news is that God created us with “rear-view mirrors” and He intends for us to use them. He expects us to see where we’ve been, how He’s helped, and to steer and maneuver through life’s winding and often bumpy roads. We would do well to use our mirrors to remind ourselves, our families and others of God’s faithfulness.
We must not miss the many times throughout Scripture where God instructed His people to establish a memorial following various events or when He displayed His mighty works and included thoughts as to how they might direct future generations. Remembering what God did was important not only to those witnesses but also to those who would follow. Each miraculous event was important and served to accomplish His plan. Equally important was what each revealed about God and the value and priority He places upon passing this information on to others.
One example of this is found in Exodus 10:2 when God gives instructions to Moses. God explained one of the reasons He performed the many miracles culminating in the release of the Israelites by the Egyptian Pharaoh, “I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord’” (NLT).
Also, in Exodus 12:26-27, after God had given specific instructions about establishing the Passover ceremony, God communicated through Moses to the people, “Then your children will ask, ‘What does this ceremony mean?’ And you will reply …” Similar instructions are repeated in Exodus 13:14, “And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them …”
Later, God instructed Moses to write down all the instructions that God had given as the people prepared to enter the Promised Land. God explained, “Do this so that your children who have not known these instructions will hear them and will learn to fear the Lord your God.” (Deut. 31:13) Again, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God instructed Joshua to construct a memorial in the riverbed and said, “In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them.” (Joshua 4:6-7)
God’s purposes include remembering what He has done and relating this information to our families so they too “will know that I am the Lord.” We do not build stone memorials today; we are living memorials. We are living witnesses to him who lives in us, that He is our Lord and God. God knows our tendency to forget. He repeatedly warned and instructed His people throughout the Bible. He expects the same of us today for three important reasons:
1. To build and strengthen our foundation of faith. God’s presence during our lifetime and especially as He guides us through times of crisis builds a reservoir of faith and encouragement when adversity strikes. Sadly, we are prone to forget or dismiss what God has demonstrated over the years in our own personal lives.
2. To sustain our Christian faith in future generations. God places great value on His children remembering and telling their children and grandchildren of His mighty acts. We have the same responsibility to share what God had done for us. It is far more powerful when our children hear of their family’s faith versus just listening to a sermon.
3. To witness to the world of our great God. The world has no sustainable solutions or true answers for life’s hardships. When adversity strikes in the life of a non-Christian, a personal testimony as to the difference God made is an effective witness.
Our lives are full of times when God has intervened. It may have been to give his super-natural peace during a time of personal trial. For some, it may have been his miraculous intervention in the shaping of events and outcomes, or His providing seemingly coincidental unexpected provision. It may be remembering a time when despite the pain and suffering, we were able to realize God’s greater purpose and bring glory to Him.
An extremely talented Christian friend spoke of his agony of going without a job for over a year. In spite of his networking, countless interviews and circulating his resume nationwide, nothing happened. He shared his frustration and crying out to God for help. During this painful time, we maintained close contact and focused on God’s promises and various Scriptures for encouragement to bolster his faith.
He learned much from his experience and in the process drew closer to God. He trusted Him and His work even when seemingly nothing was happening. Finally, he landed an outstanding position and his trial ended.
In reflecting on his past year, he related to me, “This past year was the toughest and most painful year of my life; it was also one of the best and most fruitful times of my spiritual life. I saw God work and my faith grew like it never has before. I started the year convinced that I would quickly get another job. It was all about me and my talents and resources. God had to break me and take me to the bottom. All my resources dried up. All I had left was to depend upon Him. God did a great work in me. It sounds unusual, but I can now sincerely thank God for putting me through this growth time of my life.”
Some years ago I received the surprising news that the Texas company where I worked was acquired and my position was eliminated. In short, I was without a job. To say this was a disruption would be an understatement. My search for a similar position in the surrounding area was futile. It soon became apparent that relocation was necessary.
I reluctantly accepted a position with a larger corporation in, of all places, Los Angeles. At that time, none of this made sense. Moving to L.A. was the last place my wife and I wanted to be! Our Texas ministry was fruitful and it seemed contrary for God to allow this to happen. We were heavily involved in our church and community leading Bible studies. This change brought our ministry to a halt. We questioned God and couldn’t understand why this was happening. We were unaware that He had a far greater assignment and ministry awaiting us in California.
We moved to L.A. and saw God work in ways that were beyond our wildest dreams. In time we recognized that He had placed us in a mission field with a number of new opportunities. Surprisingly, God orchestrated my career and I soon became the chairman, CEO, and president of one of the largest corporations in the nation. He placed us where He wanted and then provided a platform for even greater witness and influence for His glory than we ever had in Texas.
In retrospect, Texas was our spiritual training ground preparing us for a greater assignment. We were unaware of what God was doing and experienced difficult times with the loss of job and the pain of a relocation away from friends, family and ministry. This was one of those times when God asked us not to understand, but to trust Him as our loving Father.
We learned from this experience and trusting God and His work even when we were unaware of His plans. As we reflect on this experience it reinforces our faith and confidence.
God’s instructions and emphasis upon our remembering to bolster our faith and then to pass our experiences onto others has not changed. He continues to place importance and value on our not forgetting Him and sharing who He is and what He’s done in our respective lives.
We are living memorials for all that God has done. When hardships appear, He is pleased when we remember Him and His enabling strength to endure; He is pleased when we recall how He was at work even when we were unaware of His presence; He is pleased when we pass these times along and share our memorials with our children, grandchildren and others.
Each of us needs to prepare a list of those unique times when God’s presence and His working was evident in our lives. Writing down key events or decisions with dates in the back of your Bible is one helpful way to memorialize them. Beside each, note the lessons learned and key Biblical verses God may have used as encouragement during these times. Reviewing this over time will prove most valuable personally and will also provide a resource to share with others during their times of need.
We must be faithful never to forget to use our “rear-view mirror.”
Taken from Finding Strength in Tough Times by Ron Wagley ©2012. Used by permission of Russell Media.
Ron Wagley retired in 2007 as president, CEO and chariman of Transamerica Insurance, a leading insurance and financial services company. He and his wife, Soni, have been married 50 years.