Sometimes life isn’t all roses.
We struggle to make sense of things. We are afflicted – by self and by people and by circumstances outside of ourselves. We don’t always (ever?) understand why God allows or causes things to happen the way they do.
There’s an oft quoted verse in the Bible people lob out to those who are struggling because they don’t know what else to say. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God’s] ways higher than your ways and [God’s] thoughts than your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:9).
While this verse is true, it’s not always comforting. “God is smarter than us, and sometimes we can’t understand what He’s doing or why.”
But sometimes we can.
Isaiah gives us some insight into why God allows (and even causes) strife in our lives.
“Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends his people: ‘See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again,'” (Isaiah 55:21-22).
God is speaking to us afflicted ones. We have clouded thinking, not because we are intoxicated, but because of something we refuse to give up. Our affection for the contents of our “cups” are causing our affliction.
One of two things is happening.
We may have sin in our cup. We may not want to give up our pornography or our selfishness or our laziness. It’s comfortable. It’s us. It’s ours. And it is afflicting us.
On the other hand, the contents of our cups may not be the problem. Rather, how we feel toward the contents is what’s afflicting us. We may have our spouses, our kids, our jobs, our money, our achievements, etc. in our cups – all perfectly good things. But we get into trouble because we value these things more than we value God. Or we despise these things God has given us as gifts. Or we abuse these things by using them for our own gain instead of the Lord’s glory.
Whether our contents or our attitudes toward the contents is the problem, either way, we are staggering. We are flailing about with sinful things or with sinful hearts, unable and/or unwilling to change. Our vision is blurred as though we are drunk. We are unable to see the Lord clearly.
So God, being our Father and Defender, steps in to help his drowning children. He does what we won’t do – He removes our cups.
Initially, we are like children whose parents confiscate a favorite toy. We are angry. We are hurt. We are indignant.
And God says, “I LOVE YOU! I can’t STAND seeing you hurt yourself with this cup! I don’t want you to be afflicted. I don’t want you to stagger. I don’t want to have to discipline you when you make these reckless choices. I am taking this cup from you so you will no longer be a detriment to yourself. You will never drink it again (at least not in its current form).”
Days pass. And we start to understand.
We come out of our stupor and begin to see, “That cup was no good for me. Thank You, Lord, for taking it from me when I didn’t have the power or the desire to give it to You.”
What’s in your cup? Is your cup more important to you than the Lord? Give it to Him before He takes it from you.
(As a side note, if the contents of our cups aren’t the problem, if it’s our attitudes toward the contents that are making us stagger, I believe God will “return” our cups after a time, once our hearts become right toward the contents. He’s gracious like that. I’d argue that once our perspectives change for the better toward the contents, they really are not the same cups they once were. They are no longer the center of our affection – they’ve been relegated to their proper places in the cupboard.)
When the thing I depend on is taken from me and I am going through withdrawal, I may do some crazy things. I’m scared and my heart does not know how to process life. The old and familiar way of handling my life is suddenly gone. If I don’t look to Jesus I will most likely look instead for a substitute addiction. Lord, arrest my gaze.