In my book, Hope Deferred, I talk about the worst weekend of my life. This past weekend has now claimed the title by a long shot. It was devastating, emotional, unbearably wrong, confusing, and horrible… I could go on and on about the wrongness of what I experienced alongside a dear friend this weekend. I am sorry to peak your curiosity when I do not plan to go into the details just yet. There may be a day when I am able to blog about this experience, but I want to honor the family that this involves, and I honestly do not know if I could come up with any words. I WILL tell you that it involves excruciating loss.
As a result of the weekend, what I feel compelled to blog about today (probably so I can root these truths deeper into my heart) is the goodness of God. When all of life feels unbearably awful and difficult, the ability to see the goodness of God is a treasure and a gift. It is a treasure because you must search long and hard for it, and it is a gift because there is a God in heaven who promises to work all things for good (Romans 8:28).
Call it a silver lining or the bright side, but if you look hard enough, you can see some good in the awful – tiny glimpses of peace amidst the raging storm. What I witnessed this weekend was the subtle, yet fiercely loving hand of God. I truly believe that God is weeping with this family, and he is working in any way he can to ease their pain.
Many (myself included) would ask, “Why didn’t God do something to stop or prevent their pain?”
In times of great trial, doubts of the goodness of God rise like waves in a storm. The doubts loom overhead or in the distance, threatening to crash down and drown us.
When faced with unanswered questions, my anchor is found in returning to what I DO know rather than giving too much energy to what I do not know. Here is what I know: (Disclaimer: there are many parenthesis and Bible verse references. Why not start off with one, right?)
God IS good (Nahum 1:7 and many more).
God never changes (Hebrews 13:8).
It does not matter what is happening around me. God is not altered by my circumstances. The nature of God’s goodness can not be moved. He remains good, always (Psalm 100:5).
But how can God still be good, when he let _____ happen? That is probably the most common question we have all wrestled with. It is the question that threatened to rock my trust in God this weekend. It is this question, with a somewhat elusive answer, that prevents many from being able to put their trust in God. We simply can not wrap our mind around being able to trust a God that could let bad things happen.
Again, I have to anchor myself in truth. Here is what I know: God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). He is a just judge. He is not corrupt. He does not pardon the guilty while judging the innocent. He judges the guilty. Every wrongdoing must be atoned for (including all of the bad things that happen).
There are two parties responsible for sin (which is what brought death) in the world. Those parties are Satan (the serpent) and Mankind (Adam and Eve). One brought the temptation, the other gave way to the temptation and disobeyed God. Both are guilty. There would be no sin in the world if Adam and Eve had resisted or if the serpent had not tempted. As a result, God, the Just, can not judge only one of the guilty parties without simultaneously judging the other. If He did, he could not be called Just.
Enter Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, he offered himself (a guiltless man) in our place of judgment. He gently pushes us to the side and says to God, “Judge me instead.” And God did. He condemned Jesus, allowing him to descend into hell. Since Jesus was guiltless, he broke the curse of the law of sin and death (Galatians 3:13) that had held mankind in bondage. Jesus broke free from the bonds of hell (1 Corinthians 15:4) and is now seated with power on the throne of grace (Isaiah 16:5, Hebrews 4:16, Romans 8:34). When we meet God face to face, those who have put their trust in Jesus will stand with a “not guilty” verdict. Jesus will declare, “I paid the price for their freedom from condemnation and guilt” (Romans 8:1-4). Satan, however, will have no one to atone for him. Satan knows his time is short and is hell-bent (pun intended) on destroying God’s beloved creation (namely his people).
God can not act against Satan (prevent ______ from happening) because that would be judgement. The Bible says that God does not want to judge the whole earth until all have had a chance to choose Him (Mathew 18:14, Acts 17:31, 2 Peter 3:9).
And so we wait in the balance. We live in a world tainted by sin. We have to deal with and live through the devastation that Satan brings. But we serve a powerful God (1 John 4:4). We serve a God who has called us to wage war against the spiritual forces of evil (Romans 6:12)- to fight for the redemption of a broken world. God has called us to co-labor with Him. God can not do all of the work (He can not judge yet), so he needs us (YOU and ME) to wield the authority that Jesus us gave us when he declared us not guilty (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 10:1).
So we fight. We fight with God’s power. We fight to see His kingdom come on earth as it is already established in heaven. We fight to remember the Lord and his goodness when life just plain sucks.
If we do not draw near to our only truly safe refuge when life is rough, then the enemy wins. However, if we draw near to God, he will cover us with his wing and shelter us from the storm.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” ( Psalm 91:4).
“I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm” (Psalm 55:8).
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3).
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7).
Peace to you all, whether today is stormy or sunny. May the peace and comfort of God (and not doubts) fill you and wash over you…