When Chaos Collides with God’s Goodness – a Guest Post

I hope you’re in the mood for a treat today! I’m pleased to feature my blogging friend and critique partner, Lyneta Smith who writes and speaks about viewing ourselves as God sees us–his priceless masterpieces. Lean in for some deep wisdom from this amazing woman of God:

I’ve heard people say they can’t believe in a racist, misogynistic god who lets tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes destroy entire cities. Who lets so many in the world go hungry and without clean water. Who lets so many suffer. An uncaring god who turns an unsympathetic eye to mass shootings, lethal diseases, and endemic poverty.

Copyright: homeros / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: homeros / 123RF Stock Photo

I have to agree with them. I couldn’t (and don’t) believe in a god like that either. I believe that God is good, and that He wants nothing but good things for His creation.

But there was a time not long ago when I had forgotten all about the goodness of God. My emotional pain had wrapped me so tight that I was suffocating. There were times I literally couldn’t breathe it hurt so much, and yet the world seemed to go on like everything was fine.

I trod through my days like an oxen through cement. It seemed like I was always in danger of sinking.

Have you ever been there, friend? Like the fog won’t lift and you can barely see six inches in front of your face?

It’s so easy to forget that a loving, powerful God knit you together in the womb and made you one of a kind. Who’s thinking about their irreplaceable purpose in the world when they’re just trying to survive?

Copyright: wiratgasem / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: wiratgasem / 123RF Stock Photo

Overwhelming emotions happen. It’s part of the human experience, but not a character flaw. Think of so many heroes of the faith—Moses, Elijah, and King David, to name a few—who broke down and despaired of living.

But where we run into trouble is attributing negative human character flaws (like racism and apathy to suffering) to a God who purposefully designed each of us with our specific DNA, including race, gender, and ethnicity. He chose our parents, where we’d be born, and all of our physical characteristics.

Not only did He specifically designate every detail from eye color to IQ, but He made us in His own image. How could He not love something that He fashioned after Himself? Think of the best set of parents you know and how proud they are of their children, and then multiply how good they are to their kids by infinity. That’s a glimpse of how good God is to us, His created beings fashioned after Himself.

Why would God be indifferent or evil to those He created specifically and individually? To those He made to be just like Him?

Racism and apathy don’t come from our Heavenly Father. He never modeled those for us. Those negative character flaws come from our human tendency to selfishness—a key element in every sin.

Copyright: rmarmion / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: rmarmion / 123RF Stock Photo

Other injustices, like neglect, abuse, and abandonment don’t come from God, either. The pain resulting from other people doing those things is sometimes so great that we tend to lump God in there too, when He’s just as grieved about their decisions as we are, or more so. God, who gave us free will (another aspect of His image), allows us to make choices that impact others, and others have the same ability to negatively impact us, even in catastrophic ways.

Thinking otherwise is merely an attempt to recreate God in our own image. It’s He who created us in His image and our call as disciples is to become more and more like Jesus, walking in His steps.

King David wrote a Psalm that I quoted to myself many times through the dark year of 2014.

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14

Copyright: udra / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: udra / 123RF Stock Photo

I clung to this verse like a tiny spark of light in the darkest cavern. Even now it’s a reminder to me that I can trust the goodness of God, even when there’s chaos all around me and I can’t see through the fog.

Those times of trial give us an opportunity to process the goodness of God in the depths of our hearts, rather than just giving it lip service when things go our way. When we have to actually search for it, it’s then that the difference it makes in our lives counts.

It’s like an upward cycle—the more we know who He is, the better we understand His goodness. The better we understand His goodness, the more we want to extend goodness in our own lives. The more we want to extend goodness to those around us, the less suffering there is in the world.

Simply put, the existence of apathy, racism, hatred, and the like in the world is simply because of one basic thing: we aren’t yet enough like our Maker. We’re created in His image, but like the child who mimics her parent, we can choose whether to do so, or rebel against everything He stands for.

Copyright: oksun70 / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: oksun70 / 123RF Stock Photo

When we reflect the goodness of God by digging wells in impoverished nations, doing tornado relief work, feeding hungry kids in our own school districts, and supporting orphan care in third-world countries, that’s when it’s most evident to those caught up in suffering. It’s in the note of encouragement we send to our depressed friend and the meal we take to someone recovering from surgery. It doesn’t have to be magnanimous. It only has to meet a need.

Is there someone in your life who needs to see the goodness of God again? Or perhaps someone across the world you haven’t met but feel a burden to show them? I challenge you to start the Advent season by pointing the light we’ve been given toward one dark place this week. If you do, please comment below so others will be inspired to do the same.

Header Image: Copyright: think4photop / 123RF Stock Photo

Are You a Piggy-back Parent?

Parenting is not for sissies.

I just finished wading through a parenting decision that threatened my peace. It was a confusing time and though friends offered great advice, I lacked clarity in determining the next step. With each passing day, the need to make a decision loomed and my anxiety increased. My moods swung, my muscles tensed, and my sleep was interrupted.stress

One morning, as I brought my anxious feelings to God, He allowed me to see a snapshot of myself. It wasn’t pretty. I looked like a busy, fretful mess. Immediately I knew that my worry and need to control were getting in the way and robbing me of His peace. I took time to name my feelings, agreeing with Him about my anxiety and fear. I laid down my decision, surrendering the process to my gracious Father.

A few tissues later, another mental snapshot came. This time, God motioned me to stand behind Him. As soon as I did He lifted me onto his back and I grabbed on like a little girl hanging onto her dad piggy-back style.dad & girl silouhette

I rested my head on my Almighty, All-knowing Heavenly Father’s shoulders and the spiritual atmosphere around me shifted. My anxiety left. Next, I glimpsed the last and final image. I got to see what—or rather whom—was in front of God. Our child was standing closely in front of the Father. Both of His strong hands were resting on our son’s shoulders. Perfect peace enfolded me.

Since that morning, I’m often reminded that it’s not my job, or my husband’s, to control our children’s lives. It’s God’s. He’s got them. My job is to hold onto God, and even my ability to hold on is accomplished through the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Are you a piggy-back parent? We can toss pebbles of fear that ripple the waters of our households with disorder and unrest or we can choose to release our emotions to the One who calms the raging seas of our hearts and minds. Piggy-back parents grab onto God during the storms, rather than fearfully attempting to micromanage their circumstances.

Earlier this week, we reached a decision. I have peace. And because God is a cherry-on-top-of the-ice-cream-sundae kind of Father, He left me a gift in my e-mail inbox yesterday:

piggyback“About Benjamin he said: ‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders’” Deuteronomy 33:12.

What God revealed in mental snapshots during my prayer time, He confirmed in His word. Because He’s just that good.

Do you struggle with fear and control as a parent? Join the conversation below by sharing how you throw pebbles that ripple peace into your homes.

New Mercies

We say it all the time: God is good. But for some, the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church threatened our belief in God’s goodness. He is all-powerful and He is sovereign which means He could have prevented this tragedy. But He didn’t.sad child

I cannot argue with those who say, “It’s beyond me—to understand how a good God could let hatred take nine people’s lives? I don’t get it.”

2305701220_0fc3d01183_zI agree. It is beyond me to grasp why a good God allows this. But God is beyond me. “His ways are not my ways,” Isaiah 55:8. This doesn’t mean He is any less good. It simply means that His definition of good is beyond mine. (Itty bitty brain. Itty bitty definition of good. Vast, all-powerful, unlimited wisdom and knowledge. Higher, more complete definition of good.)

  2443732503_69fedc69d6_zIs it possible that amidst the ocean of sadness whose waves pummeled Charleston last month, our good God is using thousands of His children to toss pebbles of love—pebbles whose ripple effects are bringing one good thing after another?

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Steven Curtis Chapman’s pebble was a song. His grief rippled a melodic promise that “Love will Overcome” across Facebook and Youtube.

4923394528_5fa7ce163b_zI gathered with other pebble throwers at my church the night after the news hit. We joined hands, bowed heads, wept, sang, and wept some more. As we quieted our hearts to pray, my favorite hymn kept reverberating in my mind’s ear: “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.” A prayer rose to my lips: “God, Charleston sure could use some new mercies. In the days and weeks and months that follow, please send us new mercies so we can look beyond our hurt and see your love at work.”

I left the church and continued with my evening forgetting about the prayer. The next morning, as I typed away at my laptop, a movement outside my window lured my eyes from the screen. I craned my neck to see what was going on. I heard chatter in the driveway and noticed my neighbor getting out of his car. His very pregnant wife’s due date was last week. For the past few days, things had been quiet next door and we hadn’t heard any news.

As I watched the back door of their SUV open slowly, a God-breathed, new mercy emerged in an infant car carrier. Joy beamed across the young couple’s faces as they carried their new baby girl inside. I heard the excitement in their voices as they welcomed her home. Peace softened the ache of my grieving heart. “Thank you Abba, Daddy, for showing me this new mercy today,” I whispered. “ I really needed that.”

baby hand

Charleston, my heart grieves for you. But hold on, because our God is faithful, His mercies are new every day, and He is good.

“Great is they faithfulness, oh God my father. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Be honest: how have such events impacted your faith? How have you seen God’s hand at work in the midst of evil?