Unhelpful Things Christians Say
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch . . . And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21
Often, in the midst of painful trials, well-meaning Christians attempt to comfort the one going through the trial with some hopeful promise of the future. God will turn this pain and misery into something good. You’ll see. The intended comforter believes that if the one suffering could just see the big picture, it would lessen the pain right now. The problem of course, is that painful trials don’t always lead to something better. Sometimes pain begets more pain. Sometimes the addict doesn’t find recovery and sometimes he dies in his addiction. Sometimes, there is no fairy tale ending.
God certainly can take a disaster and redeem it, turning tragedy into something beautiful. That’s exactly what happened in today’s passage. In the story, Luke reflected on the stoning of Stephen and the persecution of the church. Because of that persecution, Christ’s followers were scattered, taking the gospel with them. In their obedience, the disciples took Christ’s message of repentance to places it never would have gone if the persecution hadn’t taken place. God took a horrible event and redeemed it for tremendous good.
In our pain, we all wish for restoration and redemption. Is there something we can do to affect the outcome? Today’s passage says that we can. If those disciples had abandoned their faith when persecuted, the gospel would not have been spread. It was only through their radical obedience that God worked his plan of redemption.
This is what determines my future – whether I follow God’s will or not. For those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). In my addiction, had I refused repentance and continued down my own path, I would have only wrought more destruction. In turning and following God – though I do it imperfectly – he has transformed my disaster into something good.
God can and will turn our trial into something good, but often that depends on our response to that trial. If we desire redemption, we have only one choice – to follow the only one who is capable of such a transformation. We may not get the outcome we think we want, but in radically following God, he leads us to life, joy, and peace.