What is the Good Life?

7729764370_f753f3e79c_bFor many of us, the concept of the “good life” is inexorably tied with having a life free from suffering and pain. We believe that a good life should be one of plenty and of lavish worldly possessions. Often times when suffering or loss happens in our lives we start believing that our lives are somehow no longer good. This suffering can even cause us to question God’s love for us. Many of us fail to understand that God is the general officer of all creation. We don’t understand God’s plan because it is beyond what we are capable of understanding, but if we accept that God is good and that He is for us, we can begin to accept that we are merely a small part of the bigger picture. The “good life” does not mean freedom from pain and suffering, it means having the ability to look at our lives as a whole and in combination with the rest of the world.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Those who have been to war understand the chaotic nature of what it is like. The average ground pounder/combat arms soldier or marine only has a small glimpse of what is going on.  It is easy to forget that the war comprises of hundreds of areas of operations, each with their own objectives. The longer a soldier stays in the military the more they have to have faith in their officers to combine what we do into the larger picture in order to be successful and to win not just a specific battle but the war.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. – Psalms 139:4

God knows everything that has happened, is happening and will happen in the future.  God knows what is best for us and He knows where we will do the most good for those around us. Like a general, God has a high level view of all battlefields but unlike worldly generals, he also has foresight and the ability to see how certain actions will affect events into the future. Just like a general who has to make hard decisions, God must place us in terrible situations that are not only beneficial to the war but are also beneficial to us in the long run. As anyone who has actually experienced a long and protracted deployment understands, many actions and decisions by our leaders seem completely pointless and random, but in combination with the actions of hundreds of thousands of others they start making sense.

jk 1Someone once told me that our entire lives are spent painting a single leaf and that when we die we get to see the whole tree. Sometimes it seems that what happens to us or what has happened to us in the past proves the God does not care about us, but this is as far from the truth as possible. We only need to look at our own lives or the lives of others to see why this is false. How many times have we suffered a loss or something didn’t turn out the way we imagined it but we later realized that it was for the best?  Imagine this on an infinite scale! Just like a pharmacist can create life saving medicines from poisons, God can take seemingly pointless suffering and help us and those around us.  Without the pain there is no pleasure and without the sour there is no sweet.  We must accept that the world is a terrible place but that God uses it and us to His ends which are always just and good.

The Bible is full of verses that show that the pain and suffering we live in this life has nothing to do with whether or not God loves us and that’s suffering actually refines our love for Him. The further we are from worldly pleasures the closer we are to the understanding that we can not do this alone.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I have mentioned before the concept of “the brotherhood of shared suffering”. No one understands better our pain than someone who has experienced the same situation. If you went through the pain of a lost child or have experienced the horrors of war, you are uniquely qualified to bring comfort to others who have gone through the same thing. Someone who is hurt and suffering and who does not know Christ might even be more receptive to the Gospel if they can see that you have obtained healing because of your relying on Jesus. When someone is living a life that is fantastic in the eyes of the world, they are much less likely to be receptive to the Word of God. It is that suffering and that reliance on someone other than ourselves that gives us the opportunity to rely on Jesus to not only take away the penalty for our sins but to bear our burdens.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

resilient-sprout-in-drought_645x400Jesus Christ did not promise an end to suffering but he does give salvation that is eternal. This world is intolerable for the simple reason that it is not our home. Believe in Jesus Christ and begin the process of letting go of what you believe is the “good life.” Accept the facts that God is listening, that He is present, and that He is good. God places us in certain situations throughout our lives not because He hates us or that He wishes us to suffer but because he sees the big picture. Even more importantly He wishes us to rely on Him.

In light of this reality it is kind of difficult to be upset about the way our lives turned out, isn’t it?

Michael Davis
Senior Editor of Veterans to Christ. Served as a Cavalry Scout from 2005-2009. Iraq Veteran.