by David Strope
For 23 years I wrote the weekly “Pastor’s Page” in the Ankeny (Iowa) Baptist Church bulletin, but now I no longer serve as a pastor. What, I wonder, might I name this national representative’s column?
“The Interim’s Ink”?
“The Rep’s Report”?
I’ll entertain thoughtful, appropriate suggestions and give the person with the winning title a $50 restaurant gift card. If mine is the best, then I will treat my wife, Debbie, to one (only one) dinner at 801 Grand. I, of course, will be the sole judge in the Name the Column contest.
Warren Wiersbe wrote a book titled The Bumps Are What You Climb On. He began his book with these sentences: “A little boy was leading his sister up a mountain path and the way was not too easy. ‘Why, this isn’t a path at all,’ the little girl complained. ‘It’s all rocky and bumpy.’ And her brother replied, ‘Sure, the bumps are what you climb on.’”
Bumps. Obstacles. Difficulties. Trials. I ask what Wiersbe asked: “What do you do with the bumps on the path of life?”
Years ago Jesse Eaton, a missionary to Bangladesh with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, shared this prayer that I now pray daily:
Heavenly Father, You have every right (and my permission) to rearrange my life at any time in any way to fulfill Your plan for its influence for Your glory.
Or put another way, God is sovereign, not merely in the abstract, but also in the difficult realities of life. He introduces “bumps” into our lives. In fact, He often brings us by the path that seems to be nothing but bumps!
Biblical Examples of Bumps on Life’s Road
Consider young, somewhat arrogant Joseph in the Old Testament. Although he was his father’s favorite, he endured many bumps: threatened with death by jealous brothers, left to die in a desert pit, sold into slavery by a sibling, forgotten in Pharaoh’s prison, a stranger in a foreign land.
Or perhaps think of Job and how God permitted Satan to ravage Job with illness, disease, the death of dear family members, a discouraging wife, and miserable comforters pouring salt into his soul’s wounds.
Remember, too, proud, boastful Simon Peter, whom Jesus allowed to be sifted as wheat by Satan (Luke 22:31). Couldn’t Jesus have kept Peter from such direct satanic attack? Yes, but Jesus promised to pray for Peter instead (v. 32), so Jesus did not smooth Peter’s bumpy path of satanic sifting, of testing and denial.
And as Paul anticipated ministry, he noted, “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9, ESV). A wide door and many adversaries. Not “but,” rather “and”! He anticipated a bumpy road.
General Bumps in the Road
Bumps are not only what we must climb on. They are the norm, the regular experience of life—for the saved and unsaved alike.
Some of these bumps are the result of our sin. We must climb them via confession, repentance, and frank acknowledgment of our sin, taking full responsibility before God.
Other bumps are present in the path of life because we live in a fallen world. Sin, disease, failure, limitation are results of living in a sin-cursed world. We experience these, not because of personal sin, but because we live in a sinful world where death yet reigns. After all, rain falls on both the just and the unjust—both the gentle, nurturing rain and the ravaging rainstorm that ruins everything in its path (Matt. 5:45).
All bumps are either directly or indirectly placed in our path by our sovereign, merciful God. For example, months ago my wife and I laid out sane, Spirit-directed, prayer-laden plans for my transition from full-time pastoral ministry. Though God directed us to make these plans and communicate them to our church family, He subsequently directed our path to service on behalf of the GARBC fellowship, with me serving as interim national representative. We might not call such service a bump, but it is certainly a detour, an altered plan, an adjusted communication, a different timeline—all at the direction of our sovereign, merciful God.
In recent months, God introduced bumps into the life of our fellowship. Together we acknowledge that God has every right and our permission “to rearrange [the life of our association of churches] at any time in any way to fulfill [His] plan for its influence for [His] glory.”
Three Truths for Our Road
I am taught and greatly comforted by a trilogy of verses in Psalm 119.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word (v. 67).
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes (v. 71).
I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me (v. 75).
TRUTH ONE: Affliction . . . bumps . . . may be a tool of our sovereign, merciful God to prompt obedience, bringing us necessary correction.
Bumps, affliction, problems—they are God’s call to revival for us individually and corporately. Therefore, our association’s recent bumps were designed by God to draw us collectively to renew our faith and love of Christ, to restore our vigor in making disciples, and to repent in a way that is genuine, full, and manifest in day-to-day life.
TRUTH TWO: Affliction . . . bumps . . . may help us to learn God’s Word and, therefore, learn and know God.
Bumps in our path of life are God’s tools to help us learn His Word, and to learn that God is nothing other than sovereign. Children of God—made such by grace through faith in Jesus Christ—learn best through the crucible of trial, affliction, and difficulty.
For example, Paul, speaking from a Philippian jail, declared, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10, ESV).
Peter emphasized the same desire: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7, ESV).
TRUTH THREE: Affliction . . . bumps . . . are signs of God’s presence and activity, not His absence.
Far too often when bumps appear on our path, we fear that God has abandoned us. Quite the contrary is true: bumps are a sign that God is near, that He cares, and that He tends to His children.
Because we are justified by faith and are at peace with God, when He directs us to the bumpy path, we may not only glory in tribulation but also sense His presence in the fullness of His love (Rom. 5:1–5).
Bumps, those unexpected and sore life challenges, are the evidence of God’s love and care for us, His children!
Whether as individuals, married couples, or a fellowship of churches, we are led by God to the bumpy path. Yet we exclaim,
We are drawn to correction and revival by the bumpy path!
We are taught God’s Word, to know God Himself, by the bumpy path!
We are assured of God’s presence by the bumpy path!
Blessed be His name!
David Strope serves as interim national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
- This article was published in the September/October 2021 Baptist Bulletin. Subscribe to the Baptist Bulletin or purchase a gift subscription. If you already subscribe to the print edition, sign up for free digital access.