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

Why Walking A Tight Rope in the Dark is a Good Thing

Life is hard. We live in a fallen world and people suffer.

“God’s in control,” says the resolute Christian.

Yes. He is. As Christ followers, we know that there’s nothing outside the realm of God’s all-knowing, all-powerful dominion. But when the dark days come and things are closing in around us, our humanity—our fearful weakness—causes us to crave control.

stressHere’s the thing. There lies a uniquely ripe opportunity for pebble throwing right smack dab in the middle of ugly suffering. I’d even say that the potential to throw especially powerful and effective pebbles is at an all time high because of suffering. Let’s break this down some more.

I’d like you to meet Jane, Alice, and Rhonda. Three kind, thoughtful, Jesus-loving women.

Jane and Alice are catching up after their Bible study one evening. Jane, who lives a perfectly ordered, peaceful, and pious life, pats the back of Alice, who has just miscarried late in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Jane quotes Romans 8:28 and assures Alice that God will use this horrible experience for good so there’s hope. “Just fix your eyes on Jesus,” she quips. “This too shall pass.” Alice isn’t sure why, but Jane’s words crash against her heart. They feel heavy and burdensome instead of light and hopeful.

Later that same week, Alice bumps into her friend Rhonda at the grocery store.

frozen

photo credit: Anthony Albright

Several years ago, Rhonda lost three babies, each little life ended during the second trimester of pregnancy. As the grieving moms bond in the produce aisle, Rhonda leans into hear Alice’s quiet pain and remembers the hurt. With tears in her eyes, she hugs her tightly. “I know. It hurts. Go ahead and cry. Jesus has your baby. I know because I’ve lost three. I still miss those babies but we will see them one day. You’re going to make it to the other side of this, and it will get better. Just hold onto Jesus and He will walk you through it. One step at a time. One day at a time.”

 

Consider the impact of scripture-spouting Jane versus how things went with Rhonda. Both women were attempting to throw a pebble of kindness to ripple healing and comfort into Alice’s life. And Jane is right. God takes horrible things and uses them in the lives of those He loves, His children, to bring about His purposes. He does it all the time and it’s an astoundingly beautiful thing.

But Rhonda’s words carried more weight. Not the kind of weight that leaves another feeling heavy and burdened. Her pebbles made deeper ripples in Alice’s heart with greater effect. Rhonda has walked the tightrope of miscarriage and through that nightmare she has earned the right to speak weighty words of hope and significance into Alice’s life.

These are fictional scenarios but the reality is, I miscarried our third child many years ago. Our daughter’s heart stopped beating very late in my second trimester. There were well-meaning, kind people who spoke good words—Biblical words even—that had very little impact on me. Little impact other than making me feel like I wasn’t being hopeful enough. And then there was the call from my friend, Lynn, who had walked the wilderness of multiple miscarriages.

I will never forget my conversation with Lynn. She listened well and we spoke about things no one else understood. I can’t remember her exact words, but that one pebble-throwing phone call carried weight and its ripple effects were significant—so significant that her words prompted this blog post several years later.

 

My friend, Art, has an adult daughter who’s in a fierce battle with ALS. It has been a long, hard, and at times very frightening rollercoaster ride. But Jesus Christ has been their rock. I do my best to encourage Art, his wife, and daughter on their journey, with prayer, words of hope, and hugs. But recently, he shared an e-mail with some powerful pebble-throwing words. They came from a family friend whose high school son has a brain tumor. The family had just received inconclusive scan results. The mother wrote:

“We are a bit discouraged with the results . . . because in our humanness we want a sense of control.  We want to know exactly what is going on and what to expect.  I want to be able to walk down a big, broad path that is well lit and there is visibility down the road.  I want to be able to run and skip and be carefree down the path, but that is not the case.  Instead, God has called us to walk on a tight rope in the dark.  It feels scary and the road is uncertain.  But the best part of this path is that I am tightly holding onto my Savior’s hand. When He walks with me, He gives me, not only guidance, direction, and security, but He lavishes His peace because I am held by Him.  There is no better place to be.”

That last line bears repeating. A mom of a high school senior with brain cancer, who has no idea of her son’s outcome, says “There is no better place to be.”

Not because she likes the tightrope God’s chosen for her to walk, but because she’s held by the One who holds both ends of the rope. These weighty words lifted Art’s faith at a time when my encouragement most likely falls a bit short.

heart stoneIt’s hard to know the right thing to say. Sometimes just listening is better, unless your experience compels you to share a nugget of wisdom packaged up with a large dose of compassion. Shared experience uniquely qualifies you to be a pebble thrower whose words carry wisdom. I pray that your weighty words will ripple encouragement and hope into the lives of those who need them most.

What tightrope has God called you to walk in the dark? How might you toss a pebble by allowing your experience to ripple some light into another’s dark pain? please share below…