When I was younger, I worked for a year as a driver for a company in southern California. I delivered parts from our company to other companies in the area. This involved relying on maps and addresses, as I was often driving through unfamiliar territory.
Invariably I would be driving down a street at the speed limit of thirty-five or forty miles per hour, trying to spot the address on the side of a building or street curb. If I slowed down to see better, the traffic behind me would slow down and I would be the object of blaring horns. I always went as slow as I dared, but occasionally I would realize, after looking back and forth from one side of the street to the other, that I had actually passed my destination.When that happened I had to quickly glance in my rearview mirror and try to spot the building.
I have come to the conclusion that this is often the only way we can correctly perceive some aspects of God’s will—in the rearview mirror of life.
I was thinking about this recently when we invited some Christian friends over for dinner. As we finished dinner we began talking about our backgrounds, and some of the traumatic and difficult experiences we had encountered in life.
As we shared experiences we had lived through twenty and thirty years ago, and how hard and unwanted they had been at the time, we began to realize how significantly these experiences had impacted our lives in a positive way.What we couldn’t begin to see at the time was our immaturity, wrong ideas about God and life, and attitudes that desperately needed to be changed. At the time the experiences seemed overwhelming and designed to destroy us. There was no way, we realized years later, that we could have expected to understand what God was doing through these events.
But in retrospect it made sense to us. Though none of us would want to repeat those moments again, we all agreed that they had been necessary for our growth. The pain and difficulty had transformed us in a way nothing else could. But only from the rearview mirror of life could we see that. The will of God had involved pain, but not for pain’s sake. There was a loving, caring, and wise purpose behind it all.
Paul Tournier wrote, “God leads us step by step, from event to event. Only afterwards, as we look back over the way we have come and reconsider certain important moments in our lives in the light of all that has followed them, or when we survey the whole progress of our lives, do we experience the feeling of having been led without knowing it, the feeling that God has mysteriously guided us."
(An excerpt from the book "When Faith and Decisions Collide" by Daniel Schaeffer)