I was nine years old when Lynn Anderson’s “I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” first aired on the radio. To this day, I can still sing every word of that song. “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometime…” Even at a young age, I understood the meaning of that song.
I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow we’ve passed down, generation after generation, an unspoken belief that life is supposed to be a bed of roses, and that hardship and suffering are to be avoided at all costs. Despite our best efforts to dodge disaster, personal or otherwise, mankind has never been successful in leading a completely “rose-y” life-style. All of us at one time or another have thought if we could just manage our lives correctly, if we could control every circumstance, we would never suffer.
But in the absence of hardship, without suffering, there is no drive for humans to glorify God. In fact, it’s during times of trouble when God is most near us. Psalm 145:18 tells us “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” I don’t know about you, but that’s the only time that I call upon God. When things are going swimmingly, I tend to grow complacent, thinking that all is right with the world because I’m crushing it at my job and in my relationships.
Then disaster strikes. We lose a job or discover an illness. A loved one dies. All of the sudden, we’re on our knees begging to know why, begging Him to deliver us from the mess and the hurt…but only because we’re at the end of our rope. In our weakness, we suddenly become receptive to Him and open to doing things His way, rather than our own. All of the sudden “Thy will be done” doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Personally, it took a mighty long time for the words “Thy will be done” to have any real meaning. Sure, we say it in the Lord’s prayer, but most of us rarely mean it. And if we do relinquish control as a last resort, it’s usually while we’re clenching, thinking “at least until I get out of this mess!” When life finally rights itself, we take back the wheel and commence driving our own vehicle.
But what if we could trust God completely? What if we could be convinced that He is good and merciful, kind and loving? According to Psalm 84:11, He is just that.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
We think turning our lives over to God would mean suffering. Some even believe that God causes the suffering. While God never promised there would be no suffering, He did promise to care for us. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In other words, He promises to be right there with you in your suffering and offers to give us peace in the midst of pressure.
But what good is that to me? you might ask. I don’t want Him to just be with me, I want Him to alleviate my suffering.
The answer to that is in His word. In fact, the Lord directs us to “fear not” roughly 74 times in scripture. He also offers repeated reassurances and promises to increase our strength, to uphold us, and to never forsake us. (Read Joshua 1:9; 1 Chronicles 28:20; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Isaiah 40:29; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 41: 13; and my favorite, Isaiah 41:10.) It is in these scriptures that we find peace, calm, and healing. In these passages, we are given clues how to handle what life throws at us.
So rather than clenching, experiment with widening your arms and looking to heaven while praying “Thy will be done.” Release the need to determine your outcome and control your suffering. Because despite the beauty of rose gardens, thorns and stings can still happen there. But we can walk through this life, enjoy all it has to offer, and weather the storms when we look to God to help us.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” (Psalm 46: 1-2).