The Bible nowhere promises Christ's ambassadors some rose-petaled aisleway of safety through suffering. Indeed, scriptures such as Psalm 34:19 say the exact opposite: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous" (NKJV).
However we try to impose upon God our limited human fairness doctrines, He will not submit. He lifts one to prominence and public blessing, plants his feet in a broad place and anoints his ministry before the eyes of the world. Another pours out his life in the jungle, and the Peruvian Air Force shoots down his plane, killing his wife and child. Ministry, hardship, suffering, blessing, miracles, signs, wonders and unspeakable agony seem all jumbled in the fruit basket of life, which defies our cozy explanations and tidy little formulas of faith.
Only one word will make sense of it all, bring a victorious joyful meaning to it, for that word scatters the midnight of temporal confusion with the dawn of eternal significance: nevertheless.
Satan never misses an opportunity to plunge the dagger deep into the soft, defenseless tissue of our pain. "You see," he says, "there is your God for you. You see how He is. He lets you work like a slave, pour out your heart, preach till you drop, pray without ceasing, and He rewards you with a church split, angry elders and rabid sheep tearing your flesh to shreds. What do you have to say to this fine mess?" he mocks.
The weight of our apparently unrewarded labors, so oppressive in their density, is on one side of that word. On the other rests an unchanging and unchangeable biblical truth.
In 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul said: "For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day."
In the midst of trial by fire, who God is remains the infinitely greater truth than what is happening. Plant your faith in the miracles of God, and you are ripe for satanic attack. Anchor your soul in the God of miracles, and circumstances can never dislodge your hope. Whom you have believed may someday be all you have to cling to. But that will be enough.
Your life, faith and labors of love in Christ's behalf are not lost under the clutter of papers on God's disheveled desk. Regardless of what you may think just now, God keeps, carefully and lovingly, all that is committed into His hands. Nothing is lost. Nothing is even temporarily mislaid. In that day, that lovely dawn of clear, bright truth, it will be right there where you put it: in His hands.
God will not put any burden, calling, responsibility or ministry in my hands that He will not keep in His. The ultimate responsibility for outcome is not mine, but His. My responsibility is to intentionally place back in His hands all that He puts in mine.
In the jeering din of demonic accusations, we can whisper the one great word that puts the enemy to flight and lights the corners of the room: nevertheless.
I know who my God is, and I am eternally convinced He will not let anything go unseen or unrewarded. When Satan tenderly drapes the dreary afghan of self-pity around our slumping shoulders and begins to whisper, we need not let him even finish his sentence.
"What about all the..."
"Who will repay all the..."
"Look, they all forgot your..."
Mark Rutland is president of Southeastern College in Lakeland, Florida, and founder and president of Global Servants, an international missions ministry. He is the author of Nevertheless (Charisma House), from which this column was adapted.