First Impressions Aren't Always Right - Be Ready to be Surprised by God Especially When You Thought He Abandoned You
The presence of God is like His glory as it appeared to Moses; He said, “Thou canst not see My face … and live”; but he passed by, and Moses saw that glory, as it retired, which he might not see in front, or in passing; he saw it, and he acknowledged it, and “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (Ex. 33:20; 34:8).
Now consider how parallel this is to what takes place in the providences of daily life. Events happen to us pleasant or painful; we do not know at the time the meaning of them, we do not see God’s hand in them. If indeed we have faith, we confess what we do not see, and take all that happens as His; but whether we will accept it in faith or not, certainly there is no other way of accepting it. We see nothing. We see not why things come, or whither they tend. Jacob cried out on one occasion, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36); certainly so they seemed to be. One son made away with by the rest, another in prison in a foreign land, a third demanded;—“Me have ye bereaved of my children; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” Yet all these things were working for good. Or pursue the fortunes of the favorite and holy youth who was the first taken from him; sold by his brethren to strangers, carried into Egypt, tempted by a very perilous temptation, overcoming it but not rewarded, thrown into prison, the iron entering into his soul, waiting there till the Lord should be gracious, and “look down from heaven”; but waiting—why? and how long? It is said again and again in the sacred narrative, “The Lord was with Joseph”; but do you think he saw at the time any tokens of God? Any tokens, except so far as by faith he realized them, in faith he saw them? His faith was its own reward; which to the eye of reason was no reward at all, for faith forsooth did but judge of things by that standard which it had originally set up, and pronounce that Joseph was happy because he ought to be so. Thus though the Lord was with him, apparently all things were against him. Yet afterward he saw, what was so mysterious at the time;—“God did send me before you,” he said to his brethren, “to preserve life … It was not you that sent me hither, but God; and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”
… And so, again, in a number of other occurrences, not striking, not grievous, not pleasant, but ordinary, we are able afterward to discern that He has been with us, and, like Moses, to worship Him. Let a person who trusts he is on the whole serving God acceptably, look back upon his past life, and he will find how critical were moments and acts, which at the time seemed the most indifferent: as for instance, the school he was sent to as a child, the occasion of his falling in with those persons who have most benefited him, the accidents which determined his calling or prospects whatever they were. God’s hand is ever over his own, and He leads them forward by a way they know not of. The utmost they can do is to believe, what they cannot see now, what they shall see hereafter; and as believing, to act together with God toward it.
And hence perchance it is, that years that are past bear in retrospect so much of fragrance with them, though at the time perhaps we saw little in them to take pleasure in; or rather we did not, could not realize that we were receiving pleasure, though we received it. We received pleasure, because we were in the presence of God, but we knew it not; we knew not what we received; we did not bring home to ourselves or reflect upon the pleasure we were receiving; but afterward when enjoyment is past, reflection comes in. We feel at the time; we recognize and reason afterward. Such, I say, is the sweetness and softness with which days long passed away fall upon the memory, and strike us. The most ordinary years, when we seemed to be living for nothing, these shine forth to us in their very regularity and orderly course. What was sameness at the time, is now stability; what was dullness, is now a soothing calm; what seemed unprofitable, has now its treasure in itself; what was but monotony, is now harmony; all is pleasing and comfortable, and we regard it all with affection. Nay, even sorrowful times (which at first sight is wonderful) are thus softened and illuminated afterward: yet why should they not be so, since then, more than at other times, our Lord is present, when he seems leaving His own to desolateness and orphanhood? The planting of Christ’s cross in the heart is sharp and trying; but the stately tree rears itself aloft, and has fair branches and rich fruit, and is good to look upon.
Newman, J. H. (2010). Life’s Purpose: Wisdom from John Henry Newman (pp. 73–76). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.