“They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:25).
SOMETIMES WHEN WE THINK WE’RE REACHING FORWARD TOWARD GOD, THE DIRECTION IN WHICH WE’RE ACTUALLY REACHING IS AWAY FROM HIM. Although we may not have the honesty to admit it to ourselves, we’re fighting against God. Our plans are opposed to His purposes. And when that happens, we’re fortunate when God steps in and blocks our progress. In fact, God is showing grace to us when He defeats our worldly ambitions and shuts us up to the consequences of our actions. When He puts us in checkmate, hemming us in, He is showing a great love for us indeed.
We need to understand that as long as God is still blocking our path and defeating us, that’s a good sign. It’s a sign that He’s still trying to win us back to His way. Much worse would be the next stage in the process: the stage in which God gives us up and abandons us to the futility and frustration of our own way.
Nothing worse could be imagined than to be abandoned by God, and yet the Scriptures teach that that is exactly what He will do if we insist on not getting the point when He blocks our path. Concerning those who adamantly refused to “retain God in their knowledge,” Paul wrote that “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28). J. B. Phillips’s paraphrase of this statement is vivid: God “allowed them to become the slaves of their degenerate minds.”
So when we find ourselves checkmated by God, we ought to be thankful. By all rights, He should have given up on us long ago, but in His grace He has not yet done so. We ought to respond rightly, in both word and deed, to the fact that God has blocked our path. When He has shut us up and left us nowhere to go, we should react with repentance and obedience. Rather than resentment, a greater reverence should be our chosen response. It is, after all, not a disgrace to be put in checkmate by God. What would be a disgrace would be to suffer and suffer and suffer — and be too big a fool to learn the lesson He’s trying to teach us.
“Every story of conversion is the story of a blessed defeat” (C. S. Lewis).