Laura and I had been looking forward to last week since Christmas. Back in December we talked about Christmas gifts for each other and realized all either of us wanted was a few days away as a family. We hadn’t gone on vacation by ourselves since Jack was born and thought a few days in a little cabin in some picturesque mountain setting seemed perfect. So, that was our gift to each other. And last week was our chance to enjoy it.
But I need to give you a little backstory to explain just how much anticipation we had for these days. When we finally found the place we wanted to rent, we realized we could only afford two nights. That was a little less than we had hoped for but we were good with the trade to stay in a place with such a great view. So, we booked it. The next day, I got an email from the owner saying they were running a buy two nights, get one free special for February that they hadn’t posted on the website yet but we were welcome to come up a day early if we wanted. We were thrilled! And you better believe we were talking about God’s blessing on our lives. We had already booked the two nights – they didn’t have to offer us the third. This was God’s favor on a tired little church planting family.
When we got there on Wednesday, it was every bit as beautiful as we had hoped. The first few hours were exactly what we pictured – infant son frolicking in the living room while Laura and I worked on dinner looking out over the mountain view.
And then Jack puked.
No big deal. Kids do that. But then he did it again. And again. And again. Add in a few other symptoms and by Thursday we knew the boy was in rough shape. On Friday, I joined the party. That’s when things went from bad to worse. That’s also when my lovely nurse practitioner wife arrived at two conclusions: one, Jack and I had norovirus (yes, the thing of cruise ship fame); and, two, we were leaving immediately. I honestly was so weak and sick that I couldn’t help pack the car at all but Laura went into some kind of superhuman Mom mode where she took care of everything, loaded us up and brought us home. Because I like you, I won’t give you details – but it was the worst car ride of my life and probably Jack’s as well.
Fortunately, Laura never got sick. But it was still a pretty nasty weekend around our house. I’m starting to feel better but working from home today so I don’t give this horrible thing to anyone at the church. Poor Jack is still struggling to get better.
But here’s the real question: what happened to God’s blessing?!?
Did we fail Him somehow? Did He fail us? Was He punishing us for sin? Treating His servants unfairly? Letting us down? Angry with us? Cruel?
My guess is we all tend to think about God’s blessing the same way. When everything is great, God is blessing us. When everything falls apart, He isn’t. Maybe we give Him credit when everything goes well but we definitely give Him the blame when things don’t.
But that’s not what the Scripture teaches. God was every bit as good when I was puking my brains out as when we were getting free nights in the cabin. He uses all things for good (Rom. 8:28). He never fails us (Josh.1:5). He’s with us always (Mt. 28:20). And all of His work is done in faithfulness (Ps. 33:4).
Here’s the point: even when we can’t see God’s blessing in our circumstances, it is constant in Jesus and in the gospel. After all, God’s promise to bless us with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) doesn’t rest on our obedience but on His grace.
The question is which we value more: vacations or eternal life? Which produces more joy: a good meal or knowing that we are co-heirs with Jesus to everything (Rom. 8:17)? What do you want most out of today: ease or intimacy with God?
Yes, God blesses our circumstances and I love it when He does. Yes, we should thank Him for vacations, date nights, good weather and good health. But don’t anchor your hope in that stuff. Real, enduring, unshakeable hope is found in the person and work of Jesus on the cross.
I would much rather have Him and a bad vacation than a great vacation without Him.