I can’t remember where I read it, but I think about it a lot. “Much of the Christian life is learning to recognize and receive fish that look like serpents.” I may be doing violence to the eloquence of the original quote, but the meaning has stuck. Matthew wrote down one of Jesus’ difficult teachings. Jesus says that even human fathers know how to give good gifts to their kids. No decent dad would surprise their kid with a poisonous snake when the child asked for something to eat. Of course, no one would give a loved one something harmful when they asked for nourishment!
Then Jesus says, “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” So many of the things that come our way in life seem bad for us. It’s easy to ask, “If God loves me and he is in charge, why would he give me this? This isn’t what I asked for.” But just because it looks like a snake doesn’t mean it isn’t nourishment. Even human parents allow their children to suffer for their good as long as we know that it will help them, and we can be certain no real harm will come to them. We stretch and correct them in how they eat, in athletics, in how they behave, feel, work, and in school because we know that homework won’t kill them no matter how much they insist that it is actually killing them. We let them fail and learn from their mistakes, not because we don’t care, but precisely because we do care. How much more so God? He lets us fail, he pushes us, he disciplines us, he stretches us because he knows that no real harm will come to us. He knows the lengths and cost he has gone to make certain that nothing can separate us from his love.
If you are a child of the King by faith in Jesus, he loves you, he is giving you good gifts even if you think your life is full of poison. He is growing us up into maturity, teaching us to recognize the good fish when our brains lie to us and scream snake. This is the fight we fight. Fight it in prayer.