Updated: Dec 2, 2019
What happens when God, who is by definition flawless, does something (or allows something) we don’t agree with and just don’t understand? I’m talking about times when even the most faithful believer thinks, “How can God be good if he’s allowing this?” Or more often, when he doesn’t do something we think he ought to? My Bible study group had a discussion about this not too long ago, and one person’s statement really stuck out to me. After sharing something she’d been praying about, she said, “I know God can do it, but I just don’t know if he will do it.” She said it with such defeat and such helplessness. It made us all stop and think. I mean, she’s not wrong. God can do anything, but loved ones still die young, jobs are still lost, houses still go down in flames. So what’s a believer to do? How do we escape that defeated, helpless feeling of doubt?
Before I tell you what I believe is the answer, I want you to think about a time you gave someone an excuse after falling short or making a mistake. When I am late to something (which happens more often these days with two little ones), I always find myself explaining what happened and hoping it will help the person I’ve offended understand that I am human and didn’t do it to be disrespectful or rude. But as I do it, I feel kind of worse, and many times, people get annoyed with excuses. “Don’t give me excuses!” So why do we even try to do it? We want to be understood. And ideally we would have people in our lives who don’t need to hear excuses... not because they’re annoyed by our attempts, but because they already know our hearts.
In our fictional entertainment worlds, we’ve started to stray away from clear-cut heroes/villains, embracing instead characters that kind of teeter on the edge of good guy and bad guy status. We have baddies-turned-good like Darth Vader, Severus Snape, the Grinch, and sometimes Loki (we’re still not sure about him). Kids have a whole series called, “Descendants,” which tells the story of the teenage children of Disney villains who are deciding if they should be bad like their parents or good, paving their own paths. We have origin stories that help us understand why villains do what they do. We even have a book series on Disney villains, giving us childhood trauma-stemming motives behind Maleficent, The Evil Queen, and Mother Gothel’s irrational hate toward teenage girls. We want to believe the evil in the world can be explained. Many times when we understand why someone is the way they are, or rather, get to know them, we have a much easier time loving them despite their flaws. So, if we enjoy getting to know our fictional villains, giving them a chance to be known and to see the “whole picture” around their stories, why don’t we take the time to try to understand our very real and very loving God and his heart?
“I know God can do it, but I just don’t know if he will do it.” My response to this is to get to know who God is. He isn’t a stubborn toddler whose mood fluctuates with the weather and moon phase. He isn’t a villain-turned-good who may or may not turn on you at any moment. He isn’t even like the best hero you can think of, who no matter how great, will still inevitably be faced with their own flaws and temptations. He is perfect. He is good. He IS love. When you find yourself saying, “I know he can do it, but I don’t know that he will,” instead ask, “What kind of king is God?”
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! Psalm 139:13-18
He’s not holding out on you. He’s not some puppet master, moving us for entertainment. He genuinely loves each and every one of us. The God of the Universe loves you more than any human ever has and ever will. Think of your closest friend or family member. He cares more about you and your soul than even that person does. When you find yourself questioning God’s hero/villain status, it is merely a symptom of not knowing him intimately enough. (I say this as much to myself as to anyone else.) It means you should study his story and get him on the prayer phoneline and talk. God can take your doubts. You can tell him.
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Matthew 6:26-27
Jesus told his followers that they will be part of his Kingdom. Kingdom is a scary word for Americans because we fought a whole war to get away from monarchy. Human kings and queens are flawed, even good ones. And it’s ok to be flawed, but not when you rule over and make life-altering decisions for thousands of people you have never met. But our King seeks to know each of us better than anyone else knows us. He is perfect. He knows every minute of your past and every minute of your future. So when he chooses to not answer our prayers in the way we want, he isn’t doing it because you were overlooked or because he was in a bad mood. He sees the whole picture. Not just of the earth or even the big universe picture. He sees all of time and space and the battle between good and evil, and he does not make mistakes. We have a king who fights with us in battle, but most importantly, he is so big and so outside of the limits of time that we know he has already defeated evil. He has already won! We are on the winning side!
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. Ephesians 2:19-20
Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10
There will be times in all of our lives where we really wish God would have done something different for us. And you won’t find me telling someone struggling that “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t think that is true. However, I do believe God can use anything for good and for the glory of his Kingdom if we allow him to walk closely with us in our hard times. When we make knowing him and being effective in his Kingdom our priorities, it lessens the pressure and fear of the very real threats of this world.
If you are going through a tough time right now, I highly recommend reading the book, “Spiritual Grit,” by Rick Lawrence. It teaches about some of the good that can come from our struggles without diminishing the weight of the situation.
A.j. is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
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