Luke 21:16-19 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. (17) And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. (18) But there shall not an hair of your head perish. (19) In your patience possess ye your souls.
I believe I first heard Tim Keller reference this passage. It was an "aha" moment for me in understanding the mind of God concerning bad things that happen to believers.
The context is Jesus revealing to his disciples what would happen as they stood for Him. I have not studied in depth the eschatological timing of the paragraph, but it seems prophetic to the last times - perhaps the beginning of the Tribulation.
What is shocking here is v.16 that says "some of you shall they cause to be put to death", and then v.18 says "But there shall not an hair of your head perish." If ever there seemed to be a direct contradiction, it must be "put to death" and "not a hair of your head perish." However, in some very strange, deep, Spirit of God way - it makes sense in God's sovereignty.
I am learning that bad things, really bad things that happen to believers are also the "servants" of God. To be clear, I am talking about people that are doing you harm, illness, calamity, tragedy, car accidents, etc, etc, etc. Somewhere in my 40's conversations about "all things work together for good" moved from theory to stark reality in a harsh way. It's great to say that, to preach it, to encourage people with it - but do we really believe in our hearts that "calamity" is an employee of God?
I am presently reading Jerry Bridges on Trusting God when life hurts. I have been illuminated to the working of God to use our enemies to ultimately work His will and our good. Bridges lays out irrefutable Biblical proof of this. I have "known" that for years, but somehow it is really sinking in.
So, back to the verse -- how can we be executed, but not a hair on our head perish?? The way to understand this is that physical/emotional/financial harm to us cannot be truly defined as "bad" considering that we have a Sovereign Father that refuses to allow anything to ultimately prosper that would destroy, irrevocably injure, or annihilate the "real us". In fact - everything that is allowed to happen to us is occurring for our good and blessing. Let me say that another way - even the most evil evil is the emissary of God to work sanctification, blessing, and the perfect will of God to us. This includes dying at God's appointed time by the hands of an executioner. When we are "dying" - not one of our hairs is perishing. We are well, we are better than well.
Now, don't get me wrong - we don't "feel" well. But, even that pain of anxiety, fear, distress, etc. is working the experience of patience and hope in us that leads to realizing the love of God.
There is then, a euphoric liberty that comes to the child of God that really believes that God is so committed to him in the love of grace that He will never allow anything to ultimately harm him.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
So, in the strange workings of the Sovereignty of God - we may be killed, but not one of our hairs can be harmed.