That’s what my minister said during a sermon, and I instantly felt the relief that accompanies forehead-slapping “of course!” realizations.
It’s not like it was really news to me. I know this life is fleeting. Everything can change in a moment. The tumour turns cancerous. The home is robbed. The child walks behind a reversing car.
Finances have been a bit more precarious than my husband and I would like in the last few years. We’ve both been tempted to feel sorry for ourselves, especially in comparison to other families around us. But when I went home after that sermon, I sat on our donated couch and glanced around at our borrowed table and our gifted bookshelf and our competition-prize television and our side-of-the-road fan… and it occurred to me that we hadn’t had to buy a single stick of furniture in that room. Or our bedroom, our toddler’s room—any room. Somehow, when I hadn’t been paying attention, God had answered our prayers and gave us far more than our daily bread.
My praise of God following my pastor’s reminder that my present and future are in God’s constant control didn’t last very long before my heart swung in the opposite direction. All it took was completing our tax returns. Last year, we had received a large sum of money from the government that helped us balance our budget perfectly. It was unexpected, and I was amazed at how God provided perfectly. This year, when we were told that this time we actually owed the government, what did my ungrateful soul demand? “God, where’s my money???”
I had forgotten that the Lord is equally in control in both the times when he provides many material comforts and those when he tells us to make do. Paul says, in the context of finances, “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). But the same apostle also describes his own situation at one point as “hunger and thirst… poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless” (1 Cor 4:11). What?
It turned out I hadn’t taken on quite the right message about worldly security. I ended up thinking “There is no such thing as worldly security… but God certainly provides material security in this world”. I forgot that Jesus says to his followers “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), and that Paul lists persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword as things that the Christian may go through (Rom 8:35). These parts of God’s word really don’t sound like he promises me a level of physical comfort.
But where is Jesus going with his talk of suffering? He prays to his Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). How does Paul end his declarations? That none of these things “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). My physical body may suffer, there well could be mental distress, but there is spiritual safety at all times for those in Jesus.
So there is no such thing as worldly security, but nor should we even necessarily expect or presume on material security as a gift from God. While he frequently gives us everything we need physically, there are times when he sees fit not to. What he provides instead is eternal security: “We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).
When I look at all God has provided for me, I ought to give him thanks and credit… but I should not expect it as my due. When I am lacking something, be it food or peace or health, I must take the approach that the world sees as foolish—to refuse to lay up treasure for myself, but instead marvel at and await my beautiful future with Christ, who has made me rich in him (2 Cor 8:9).