For many years of my young middle adulthood, life was smooth. Not perfect, obviously — when you raise a family of six on one ridiculously modest income, there’s always the stress of making the mandated property tax, insurance payments, and assorted fees involved in living in a “civilized,” bureaucratic regime.
But life was relatively predictable, and God was good.
I knew that latter because people were always telling me how good God is, and how much He loves us, and how He is always there to meet our needs. Given that most of our needs were being met adequately through sources considered standard and expected in our society, I really had no need to put my foot on the waters, step off the boat, and see if He would catch me.
But the one constant thing about life is that it never stays the same, and when circumstances blew in, they didn’t leave us much option about stepping off the boat, since they pretty much overturned it and left us hanging on to the sides. At this point, the goodness of God lost it theoretical usance and it became very, very important to know that it is truly real, and something upon which we can depend.
Not Our Default
This is not a concept one learns, accepts, or understands overnight, quite frankly, and it is also not a default setting. Another thing it is also not is something that God blames us, or punishes us, for not having, because,
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4: 15)
That high priest, on the cross, cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 46). We don’t have to wrangle theology to accept the simple fact that feeling abandoned by God, bereft, alone, and in despair, is something that Jesus understands.
This is a significant truth that is well worth reflecting upon, because, when you are going through something especially difficult, excruciatingly painful, and inexplicably confounding, you are sure to run into people who have absolutely no idea of what is happening to you (they’re a bit like I was, in my young middle adult years), and they will respond to your angst by saying,
“God is good. You simply must have more faith. Otherwise, how can He help you?”
Our Faith Comes from God
The central message is that He is limited by our lack of faith, not a particularly hopeful piece of intelligence, because — while you can generate an outward appearance of having faith that is realistic looking enough to fool not only others, but yourself (and this is far easier in the good times when there’s no need to call upon it) — that’s all it is, an outward appearance. True faith, true trust, true rest in God is the result of a process.
Romans 12: 2 tells us to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
For grammar fanatics out there, it’s interesting to note that “conform” is in active voice, meaning that we choose to conform, or we don’t; but the renewing of our mind is accomplished by the passive construction of “being transformed” — passive construction, as its name implies, means that we’re not accomplishing the matter directly, but are having it accomplished by someone, in this case, God.
He transforms our minds — and one of the most successful ways this is done is during horrendously difficult circumstances, when the external factors we normally depend upon (a regular paycheck, decent health, or predictable family/friend interaction, for example) implode. I know I am not the only one who has been driven to intense prayer and focused Bible reading in order to learn more about, and connect with, God.
God Outside the Bible
But sometimes, Bible verses aren’t enough — the very succinctness of the words lack, and this is when it’s good to remember Romans 1: 20:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
By looking at the stars, we contemplate His greatness. In the eyes of a child, we see what trust looks like. And in our interactions with others, we see how He honors His promises:
The other day, I let drop a comment to a woman about someone I love who is looking for a job with a particular organization, but can’t get past the singularly unhelpful front desk.
“My brother runs that organization,” she commented. “If you give me the information, I’ll pass it on.”
You can bet that the resume and cover letter were expeditiously placed in her hands. And, now that they are in her hands, I leave them there, trusting to her goodness, integrity, and honor in fulfilling the promise that she made. I do not need to pop by, several times a day, and remind her of this promise — indeed, to do so would be casting aspersion upon her character — and yet, when we pray to God, who tells us through 1 Peter 5: 7,
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,”
we feel a necessity to remind, plead, cajole, convince, hint, demand, insist — or worse, for those who have fallen for the lies of the prosperity doctrine, to declare, name, claim, speak a word of faith — as opposed to doing the most difficult thing of all, wait, and trust in the goodness of God.
Ask for what you need, and while you’re there, ask for the trust it will take while you await the answer.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence , so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)
This is the goodness of God.
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