The Intolerable Compliment

Ruth Davidar Paul   |   March 14, 2016 


When this year began, the word I received from God was Jeremiah 9:24 But let him who glories, glory in this. That he understands and knows Me . . . ” At the time I thought my life would be fraught with less pain and difficulty. It seemed that I'd hoped in vain, for barely two weeks into the new year, our family was thrust into a major problem. We are still grappling with it at the moment, so this post is more about what I'm learning in the midst of the storm rather than a paean of praise after having reached a safe haven.

The first aspect of this entire situation was my reaction to it. None of us have a blueprint for our lives and none of us know what's waiting for us around the corner. Yet when unexpected unpleasantness blind-sides us, it still leaves us gasping for air. I've been struggling to understand God's nature in the midst of a harsh reality. The unfairness of it all left me bitter. If I couldn't understand God's ways, how could I expect our family and friends to understand?

And that was when I read John 12:43: “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” I knew it would be difficult to explain and gain the understanding of people when they heard about our predicament. I knew that there would be well-meaning friends who would try to explain the reason behind our struggles to be a consequence of some sin. I hated having to be in a position where my family and I would be scrutinised and found wanting.

But even the knowledge that our struggles were not a sign of judgement, but a part of God's good and perfect plan, didn't ease my troubled mind. I'd gotten my priorities all mixed up. I wanted the approval of friends, rather than the approval of God. How unutterably sad.

The second aspect was my inability to see any “good” in our struggles. I know I'm supposed to believe that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), with the operative word being “all”. Yet as the days went by, with no sign of things getting better but rather the opposite, I began to question God's sovereignty. Did He know what was happening? Couldn't He see things were getting worse? Why couldn't He give me a sign of hope? The questions were endless.

Then one day, a discussion with my dad gave me a little perspective. II Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” Simple and fairly obvious, no? Yet it was becoming a real struggle for me. I needed to see a sign, see a change in my circumstances, see a modicum of hope; only then I felt I could believe God again. But our relationship with God doesn't work like that, does it? If I saw everything unfold before my eyes, where did faith come into the picture?

Which led me to the root of all my problems – the third aspect: I had begun to believe this was home. A. W. Tozer explains it succinctly,

“God has set eternity in our hearts and we have chosen time instead. He is trying to interest us in a glorious tomorrow and we are settling for an inglorious today. We are bogged down in local interests and have lost sight of eternal purposes. We improvise and muddle along, hoping for heaven at last but showing no eagerness to get there, correct in doctrine but weary of prayer and bored with God.”

That, in a nutshell, was where I stood in my relationship with my Saviour. Thankfully God was too merciful and kind to leave me there. As C. S. Lewis said, “Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.”

Our circumstances haven't changed, but my perspective and attitude has. And I'm learning to agree with James who said,

“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2).


Photo Credit : Unsplash

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Ruth Davidar Paul is a freelance editor, writer, and recently, an artist. She has lived in several cities across India and currently calls Chennai home, where she lives with her husband Abhishek and their children Abigail, Jordan, and Amy. She blogs at and paints @quaintstains on Instagram.

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