How God Makes Futility Serve Your Joy

How God Makes Futility Serve Your Joy

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (Romans 8:20).

Are you tired of fighting futility? Evil and disorder relentlessly throw wrenches into the gears of your life. What’s the point?

For God, the point is hope. Which is very strange. Futility and hope are not friends. The former tends to kill the latter. Humans can’t make them both be true at the same time. But God can.

Futility — Turned on Its Head

Futility means things fall apart. It means that what begins fresh and green and thrilling in the morning of life and love and new ventures fades and withers in its evening (Psalm 90:5-6). People die, families disintegrate, churches split, love is betrayed. Revivals dissipate into nominalism, revolutions devolve into corrupt establishments, and universities founded to preserve doctrinal orthodoxy decline into bastions of godlessness.

We are futility’s subjects. We live under its governance. And “when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). As a tyrant, futility does not inspire hope, but rather cynicism, resignation, anger, and, as Bertrand Russell put it, “unyielding despair.”

Except when God decides to use it. Then it gets turned on its head.

God does things very differently from us (Isaiah 55:8). But there is a pattern. This is a God who chooses death as the means to life (Hebrews 2:14-15), foolish things as the means to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), humility as the means to exultation (1 Peter 5:6), and poverty as the means to riches (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Is it any surprise that he also chooses futility as the means to hope?

What It Means for You

So what is this hope? “That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

Do you know what this means for you? It means that the disorder that continually works against you, those things that make you cry out for deliverance, are going to actually increase your joy when you are free at last.

Like Pharaoh in Exodus, God is enslaving the slave master for your sake. Futility will find itself just one more tyrant in redemptive history whose existence served to show that with God all things really are possible (Mark 10:27).

Hope Is Here

So in the midst of your painful chaos today you have great reason for hope. Like Israel in Egypt, God has heard your groaning and has come down to deliver you (Acts 7:34). The Son has and will set you free indeed (John 8:36).

Like the prisoner of war who has heard that his captor has been conquered and his deliverer is coming, though still weak and stuck in the concentration camp, sees his affliction in a whole new light. Hope replaces despair and captivity only heightens the anticipation of freedom.

That’s how God is now making futility serve you. The subjector is becoming the subjected. Futility is now fueling your hunger for freedom.

And freedom will be all the sweeter for the years you have seen evil (Psalm 90:15). Futility will have increased your capacity to enjoy “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

So face your defeated tyrant in hope today.

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Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.