“Why are you dashing our son’s dreams?”
“Have you abandoned us?”
“You gave my friend success, but not me. You must love her more than you love me.”
“I pray for others, and they receive miracles of healing – but you must not want me healed.”
Do you hear in these an echo of your own perplexed, hurting heart? When I take a closer look at my outbursts, I recognize what I’m really saying is, “God, you don’t love me/us. Your love is inconstant. You show partiality. You withhold your goodness. Your word can’t be trusted.”
My image of God in hard times bears striking differences to what I believe about God when my life is going smoothly. In prosperous, healthier, joyful times I gladly agree with the biblical writers who rejoiced in God’s character:
By you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Ps. 86:15)
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deut. 32:4)
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Ps 100:5)
Taste and see that the LORD is good. . . . (Ps 34:8)
Taste and see . . . . I think of my neighbor’s Crawfish Etoufeé. Many years ago, after eating a disgusting, multi-legged slice of a marine invertebrate during a trip to Asia, I made a resolution never to eat anything with less than two or more than four legs, so when my neighbor recently brought over a steaming bowl of her signature Louisiana chowder, I cringed. I knew it couldn’t possibly taste good. Too many legs!
Since our neighbor had gone to so much trouble to make it, though, what could I do but set it on the table and partake of her hospitality? I carefully tipped all but two crawfish off the spoon and back into the dish before ladling a serving onto my plate. Tentatively I bit into one, and . . . it actually didn’t taste bad. It didn’t taste wonderful, either – it’s the crawfish’s art-gum eraser texture that throws me – but the non-crawfish part of the chowder was quite tasty. My husband and our son enjoyed the crawfish, though, and happily ate the rest of my share, which proves two things: first, one man’s gastronomic challenge is another man’s gusto, and second, there is goodness in things outside of my definition of “good.” To put it another way, God’s goodness may not always taste the way I think it should, but it still is goodness.
Looking back through my journals to so many of the troubling times when I couldn’t see any sign of God’s goodness, again and again I find good. We wanted two children, and timing them four years apart so we wouldn’t have two kids in college at the same time just made good economic sense to me. However, it took seven years for me to conceive our second child: seven years of prayers and hope repeatedly dashed, till I almost gave up hoping, before Ethan came along. Our sons were born eleven years apart – and in the year our younger son graduated from high school, our older son received his Ph.D. God answered my prayer with a yes; I just hadn’t realized that eleven years would fit the timetable of my request perfectly! After Ethan’s birth, I also realized that any other child we might have conceived would not have been Ethan – a creative, compassionate, intelligent, honest, giving, loving, loyal, hard-working young man of faith and vision. go through the boy Scout Oath, and that’s Ethan. God had a specific purpose for that specific combination of DNA that is Ethan. That is goodness; that is love; that is faithfulness. The seven-year heartache that became a spoonful of goodness is the empathy I now have for women struggling with infertility.
Again and again I remember crises and wrenching situations that became avenues of blessing on down the road: a treasured necklace lost, a lost diamond found, and acknowledging that the God who was good when I found the one was the same good God when I didn’t find the other. My husband laid off and out of work for six months – and a loving God who connected him with a job better than he applied for. A cross-country move I didn’t want to make away from everyone and everything I cherished – and through that frustrating move when I thought he had abandoned me, God twice met desperate needs my kids and I would have years later. That’s goodness. That’s faithfulness. That’s love.
I think back to those evidences of God’s faithful, loving goodness even while I wonder as my emotions struggle with our retirment funds cut in half with retirement just on the horizon and this week’s discouraging news for Ethan’s dream job . . . is it God who is inconstant, or my emotions and my thinking that don’t line up with truth and can’t be trusted? I open my Bible to Psalm 89, to the words of another Ethan, “the Ezrahite,” and I stand on this “. . . BUT . . .” for me and for our own Ethan:
“I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever . . . . I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself . . . . Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. . . . For you are their glory and strength . . . . ”
Today I make a choice to believe God’s character, not the economy, not my arthritis, not the circumstances around us, and I will walk in those two matching shoes BELIEVING God’s love, kindness, compassion, and power till I get to the place where I can turn and see we’ve been surrounded by his goodness all the while.
A “. . . but . . . “ to pray: Loving Father, I look at all the problems, discouraging news, financial losses, and uncertainties ahead of me, BUT I trust that you love us, you never forsake me, your will is for our good, and you are faithfully working out blessing even when I can’t see you. Thank you that I’ll look back in a few days, weeks, or years and rejoice in what you are doing to work all of this “chowder” together for my good through your steadfast, mighty wisdom, provision, and love. I WILL taste and see your goodness! Amen!
Your own “. . . but . . .”: Loving Father, I’m so confused when I see ___________ in my life today, BUT I choose to believe you are _____________ and you love me faithfully. “I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) I will wait for you, LORD; I will be strong and take heart and wait for you, LORD. (Ps 27:14)