When tears stream from your eyes and the weight of grief is so heavy you feel like you’re suffocating, you want words of comfort—not tough love. Words of comfort may sound good, but sometimes they are just sugar-coated, feel-good truisms, that have little to offer.
Tough love is different. It isn’t as apt to cuddle; there may be a sharpness to it; and, it might even shock you. The sovereignty of God is a tough love explanation of how God works in your life, and James and Peter define it. Before Jesus called them as disciples and positioned them as Apostles, they enjoyed time together on the Sea of Galilee. They had a lot in common: Jesus called them to leave their fishing business at the same time, and both of them were part of the inner circle that also included John.
But, when you come to Acts 12, their lives take a nasty turn in direction: James is martyred, but Peter is spared. In spite of the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, this is a Rolaids moment extraordinaire: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope.”
How would you like to try and explain that to the wife of James? Peter’s wife might quote it, but James’ wife may not comprehend it.
Here’s the tough love take-a-Tums-or-two principle of theology: If you believe in the goodness of God when everything in your life is going great, you need to trust it when everything is going wrong. The darkness of evil does not extinguish the light of God’s goodness. God is sovereign in what you perceive to be good as well as in what you deem to be disastrous.
Even though aching hearts turn a deaf ear to Ecclesiastes 7:14-15, it is a tough love truth of Scripture: “When times are good, be joyful; when times are bad, consider this: God made the one as well as the other, so people won’t seek anything outside of his best. I have seen it all during my pointless life: both a righteous person who dies while he is righteous, and a wicked person who lives to an old age, while remaining wicked.”
When times of adversity interrupt your life, you can benefit by taking an eternal perspective on your predicament. This is what Joseph did when his guilt-filled brothers approached him, he said: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Genesis 50:22).”
Life is an on-going conflict between a righteous and holy God and sinful man, so the cycle of life might startle you, but it never surprises God. The truth that needs to guide you is that, “for those who love God, and those who are the called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good (Romans 8:28).”
Remember this the next time you each for a toll of Rolaids: His grace is sufficient for all your trials (2 Corinthians 12:9); His peace is present for your anxieties (Philippians 4:6-7); and, He is always present with the strength you need (Isaiah 41:10).