Hijacked Truth and Futile Character

Character is vital to our society. It is important to people as individuals and it is important to society in its entirety. I wrote long ago about how we form character and why character matters, and I re-post this particular essay today because of the lack of character that I see all around us these days.
Disobeying
When we can cheat and lie “just a little bit” and still think highly of ourselves, when we show our kids that it’s okay to do little wrong things to get by, when it is more wrong to judge evil than to do evil, then we are in trouble. For our society to function, we need people of character in leadership positions from teachers and managers to mayors and governors.
Why has this happened? Why do ordinary people care so little about acting in moral ways?
Much of this dearth of character, this dearth of virtue, comes from the rejection of the idea of truth.
If truth is, at best, all relative and just a matter of perspective and, at worst, a social construct and simply whatever we make it to be, then why should anyone work hard to develop a character that may or may not be valid to those around us?
If there is no truth that we can deliberate and discover together as a society (whatever that truth may be and wherever it may come from), we are left with “power and propaganda and grievance and anger and caucuses and anti-caucuses and special interest groups and victims and vengeance.” ~ Richard John Neuhaus, a Christian cleric and writer
grievance
There is an assumption in much of society, in many of our universities especially, that we cannot keep society and relationships moving forward if we talk about truth because truth brings only conflict. Truth has gained a negative connotation, one that assumes that anything so divisive has no appropriate role in public life.
How did this happen? How did truth get hijacked and associated with the negative? How did truth become linked with religious totalitarianism and Osama bin Laden? How did it become shameful to declare a belief in truth, even simply the idea of truth, regardless of what that truth is?
Church Wars
Part of the answer, I’m afraid, is due to the Church. We have a history of wielding the truth as divisively as possible, of tearing down and even destroying rather than creating and building up. We have used truth as an excuse for starting wars and we have used truth as an excuse to look down on our neighbor.
Richard John Neuhaus says that it is now the Church’s task to learn how to assert truth in public “persuasively and winsomely and in a manner that does not violate but strengthens the bonds of civility”.  He challenges that it is our duty not to just tolerate those with whom we disagree but to eagerly engage them in love.
How? How do we declare truth without being divisive and unpleasant, causing strife, conflict and wars?
Grace
By remembering grace.
By remembering that we can’t even live up to our own standards and yet we are loved.
When we despise anyone or feel superior to anyone, we are living by moral performance rather than grace. And living by moral performance is what brings divisiveness to the truth.
By the way we live, by living a life of loving and caring for others, we can show truth and speak truth with no divisiveness at all.
Love
This is what the early Christians did when they loved the poor, empowered women, and brought together the races and classes. This is how the early Church overran the Roman Empire when it wasn’t even attempting to gain political power.
This. This is the truth we need.
Because this truth is
a God Who became weak, Who loved and died for the people Who opposed Him, forgiving them. ~ Tim Keller
Truth
Will you speak and live this kind of truth to your world? Our world desperately needs Him.
art credits: Medieval image of Peter the Hermit leading the Crusades; Christ Crucified by Diego Velazquez; engraving of the Hotel Dieu; photograph of Christ on the Cross by Asta Rastauskiene

Tolerance or Love?

Listen to them argue. Watch as each shakes her head and smiles condescendingly while the other is speaking passionately about what she thinks is right. It often seems that surface level respect doesn’t go very far. Those who support each group seem to vilify the other, speaking out ugly words of disrespect and hate. There will always be someone with whom we disagree, someone we are vehemently sure is wrong.
Angry
Arguing
What do we do with this? What do we do when we disagree, both with those we call brother and sister and with those who do not believe? We are exhorted by our leaders and our culture to be tolerant to those around us. Everywhere we turn we are pleaded with to show tolerance to anyone who is different, anyone who thinks or behaves differently than we do.
And what does that tolerance look like? We are told by our world that we are to stay open-minded, that we are to live and let live, that we should not put up any claim to truth. We are told by the world surrounding us that we can disagree with anyone we want, can believe anything we like, as long as we keep it to ourselves.
Disagreeing
This is what our world says. But what about us? Is this what we who are Christ followers are called to be? Tolerant? Is this really all that we can manage, all that we can aspire to do? Tolerance is easy. It doesn’t require anything of either party. It relieves us of all responsibility. It costs us nothing. Tolerance shrugs its shoulders and walks away, leaving you to your own devices. Tolerance doesn’t care.
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” ~ Matthew 22.39
Love is much harder. Love costs our comfort and our time. Love affirms the reality of the other person, culture and way of life. Love takes the trouble to get to know the other person and find out what makes them beautiful. Love wants what is best for that person or culture.
Comforting
Consoling
Helping
Knowing
It was love that brought the world to oppose an apartheid regime in South Africa, not tolerance. It was love that lead Martin Luther King to pursue civil rights, not tolerance. It was love that drove William Wilberforce to lead the British parliamentary campaign to abolish the slave trade, not tolerance.
It was love that sent Jesus to the cross on our behalf, not tolerance.
We live our lives in contact with people who are different. We are surrounded by those who look, dream, think, and believe differently than we. We therefore must pray for strength to choose the harder way. If we are to be Jesus to those around us, if we are to make a difference for Him in this world, we must have the strength to choose love rather than tolerance.
“Love must confront Tolerance and insist, as it has always done, on a better way.” ~ Tim Keller in Generous Justice
Why is love so much harder than tolerance? Why does it require more from us? Part of the reason is that love is asks us to be discerning. Love sometimes asks us to work toward change yet sometimes asks us to see the gray in others rather than viewing the world in black and white alone. It is difficult to see in gray. Life gets harder when you see things from other points of view.  Straight lines get hijacked and carry you off to the unknown.  Solid perspectives grow a little blurry and you begin to take a softer view of those you disagree with.
Black and White
Adding more shades
Seeing in gray
The more we meet people who were raised differently and the more we read authors from other places and times and faith traditions, the more we begin to catch a glimpse of how much our view of God, of the Bible, of the world around us is colored by our own place and time and faith tradition.
Just as with every place and time and faith tradition, there is truth to be found and there is misunderstanding.  Tolerance allows us to be lazy, to choose what we believe and let others walk on their own path. Love requires that we listen, that we look at those before us with wisdom. As we take the time to know another and love them, we begin to realize that there is something even more important than figuring out what is right and what is wrong.
No human here on earth is my enemy.  We who claim the name of Christ are all trying to love Jesus and obey God’s words.  Rather than those who disagree with us being the enemy, being one who is deliberately misinterpreting God’s words, being one who picks and chooses what they will believe, those who see things in a different light are mostly just trying their best to follow Jesus.
Just like we are.
Words
Perhaps they are interpreting Scripture incorrectly, but perhaps we are the ones who are wrong. Grace.  It is easy to receive and devilishly difficult to dole out freely.  We spend so much time either being determined to get it right at the expense of our relationships or trying so hard to tolerate the differences around us that we quit looking at the person with whom we differ.  Yet when we look closely and intently we can see the gray shades of Jesus in the face of the person before us.
And then it is easier to love.

Edited from the archives

Two Years Ago

Two years ago this week, our beautiful Kristina left this earth.  As I take some time to remember her, I’ll dust off this essay that I wrote just after her death and share it with you again.
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He had to do the unthinkable.  He had to bury his wife.
Mike and Kristina Wedding

 

I sat at the feet of this younger brother of mine as he said goodbye to his wife of four years, the mother of his then one-year-old son.
Family Photo
I watched him struggle through despair, depression, doubt as he faces a long road of raising his son alone.
I watched my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.
Through this long struggle, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?
When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think?
What do I really believe about God in all of this?
The Word of Life
God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world.  We should not be surprised.
More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship.  Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.
I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”.  Here is my conclusion.
Ocean Waves
I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness.  I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love.  I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does.
God promises that we will have trouble in this world.  He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace.  He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy.
Isn’t that a much bigger promise?
No matter what, God is still God.
Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like?  Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good?
When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant.
How can I think that I know better than God what is good?  How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good?
Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it?  Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.
…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either.  He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me.  But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand.  His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do.  If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service.  I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Aslan
can trust God, trust in His nature.
Of course he’s not safe.  Who said anything about being safe?  But he’s good.  He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver as told to C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Fiery Furnace
When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3
When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15
No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise.
God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole.
And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives.
Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth.
And then I look at Jesus, at His cross.
Bearing the Cross
I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah.  In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die.  God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life.  And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born.  This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9
Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best.  Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people.
Light Shines Through
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized)
credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon SolomonCross photo

A Difficult Anniversary

He buried his wife one year ago today.

I sat at the feet of this younger brother of mine as he said goodbye to his wife of four years, the mother of his one-year-old son.

Over the past year, I watched him struggle through despair, depression, doubt as he faced a long road of raising his son alone.

I watched my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.

Through this long struggle that still is not done, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?

When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think? 

What do I really believe about God in all of this? 

God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world. We should not be surprised. 

More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.

I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. Here is my conclusion. 

I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness. I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love. I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does. 

God promises that we will have trouble in this world. He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace. He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy. 

Isn’t that a much bigger promise? 

No matter what, God is still God. 

Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like? Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good? 

When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant. 

How can I think that I know better than God what is good? How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good? 

Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it? Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.

…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
King’s Cross by Timothy Keller

God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot

I can trust God, trust in His nature.


Of course he’s not safe. Who said anything about being safe? But he’s good. He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3

When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15

No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise

God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole. 

And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. 

Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth. 

And then I look at Jesus, at His cross. 

I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah. In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die. God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life. And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born. This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9 

Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best. Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people. 

When through the deep waters I call you to go, 
The rivers of woe shall not overflow; 
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless, 
And sanctify to you your deepest distress. 

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, 
I will not, I will not desert to its foes; 
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, 
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. 
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized) 


a re-post from the archives for today, the anniversary of Kristina’s death
credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon SolomonCross photo

How Truth Got Hijacked

One reason that I wrote recently about character, how we form it and why it matters, is because of the lack of it that I see all around me.



When we can cheat and lie “just a little bit” and still think highly of ourselves, when we show our kids that it’s okay to do little wrong things to get by, when it is more wrong to judge evil than to do evil, we are in trouble. For our society to function, we need people of character in leadership positions from teachers and managers to mayors and governors.

Why is this? Why do ordinary people care so little about acting in moral ways?

I think a lot of this dearth of character, of virtue, comes from the rejection of the idea of truth.

If truth is, at best, all relative, a matter of perspective, and at worst, a social construct, whatever we make it to be, then why should we work hard to develop a character that may or may not be valid to those around us?

If there is no truth that we can deliberate and discover together as a society (whatever that truth may be), we are left with “power and propaganda and grievance and anger and caucuses and anti-caucuses and special interest groups and victims and vengeance.” ~ Richard John Neuhaus



There is an assumption in much of society, in many of our universities especially, that we can’t keep society and relationships going if we talk about truth because truth brings conflict. Truth has gained a negative connotation, one that assumes that anything so divisive has no appropriate role in public life.

How did this happen? How did truth get hijacked and associated with the negative? How did truth become linked with religious totalitarianism and Osama bin Laden? How did it become shameful to declare a belief in truth, even simply the idea of truth, regardless of what that truth is?



Part of the answer, I’m afraid, is due to the Church. We have a history of wielding the truth as divisively as possible, of tearing down and even destroying rather than creating and building up. We have used truth as an excuse for starting wars and we have used truth as an excuse to look down on our neighbor.

Richard John Neuhaus says that it is now the Church’s task to learn how to assert truth in public “persuasively and winsomely and in a manner that does not violate but strengthens the bonds of civility”.  He challenges that it is our duty to not just tolerate those with whom we disagree but to eagerly engage them in love.

How? How do we declare truth without being divisive and unpleasant, causing strife, conflict and wars?



By remembering grace.

By remembering that we can’t even live up to our own standards and yet we are loved.

If we despise anyone or feel superior to anyone, we are living by moral performance rather than grace. And living by moral performance is what brings divisiveness to the truth.

By the way we live, living a life of loving and caring for others, we can show truth and speak truth with no divisiveness at all.



This is what the early Christians did when they loved the poor, empowered women, and brought together the races and classes. This is how the early Church overran the Roman Empire when it wasn’t even trying to gain political power.

This. This is the truth we need.

Because this truth is 

a God Who became weak, Who loved and died for the people Who opposed Him, forgiving them. ~ Tim Keller




Will you speak and live this kind of truth to your public? Our world desperately needs Him.


art credits: Medieval image of Peter the Hermit leading the Crusades; Christ Crucified by Diego Velazquez; engraving of the Hotel Dieu; photograph of Christ on the Cross by Asta Rastauskiene

A Pure Heart

“I don’t like obeying.”



My eldest daughter’s puffy, tear-stained eyes pierce me with the anguish that only a three-year-old can have.

“I know, darling. Obeying is very hard sometimes, even for Mommy. I have a hard time obeying God sometimes too.”

Just like my eldest, I get very frustrated with how difficult it is to obey. I want to just fix everything that is ugly and wrong in my heart. I want my heart to be pure and whole and I want this right now.



Our conversation reminds me of what I read in Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of the Presence of God” where Brother Lawrence says that perhaps God doesn’t want us to try to fix everything in our hearts all at once. Perhaps God just wants us to focus on one or two things at a time while we allow Him to change our hearts:

When an occasion of practicing some virtue was offered, he addressed himself to God saying, “Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enable me”. Then he received strength more than sufficient. When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if you leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.

Why do I feel as though I must agonize over my disobedience? Why do I think that I must be pure before I am worthy of God’s love, worthy to ask Him for anything? Isn’t that the whole point of the cross…that I cannot be worthy on my own?


In Mark 9, a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus’ disciples who are unable to cast out the demon. The disciples try to cast out the demon without prayer, without asking for God’s help. This is what I do all the time. I try so hard to cast out my own failures, my sin, the ugliness of my heart without asking for help. Just as the disciples did, I underestimate the power of evil in the world and in myself. I don’t see how weak and proud I am.


Then Jesus has an exchange with the father that gives me such hope!

This man asks Jesus, “Would you heal my son?” And Jesus says, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” That is, “I can do it if you can believe.” The father responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That is, “I’m trying but I’m full of doubts.” Then Jesus heals the man’s son. This is very good news. Through Jesus we don’t need perfect righteousness, just repentant helplessness, to access the presence of God.


Jesus could have told the man, “I am the glory of God in human form. Purify your heart, confess all your sins, get rid of all your doubts and your double-mindedness. Once you…can come before me with a pure heart, then you can ask for the healing you need.” But Jesus doesn’t say that–not at all. The boy’s father says, “I’m not faithful, I am riddled with doubts, and I cannot muster the strength necessary to meet my moral and spiritual challenges. But help me.” That’s saving faith–faith in Jesus instead of in oneself. ~ King’s Cross by Timothy Keller

Aha.

Putting my faith in Jesus rather than in myself. Telling God that He must mend and clean my broken and ugly heart if He wants my heart to change…and then not worrying about it anymore!


To be able to confess to God when I fail and then leave it with Him ~ this is grace.

To allow Him to change me while I simply rest in His love ~ this is grace.

To leave to God the work of making my heart beautiful while I focus on and enjoy the sweet relationship I have with Him ~ this is grace.


Praise be to God for the good news of His grace!

May I remember this grace instead of being frustrated with my inability to obey.

May I trust that God’s seeming delay in making my heart beautiful is what is best, that the journey is somehow essential to the goal, rather than being impatient for a perfect heart right now.


art credits: “Brother Lawrence in the Kitchen” from a book published by Fleming Revell Co. in 1900; “Christ with Martha and Maria” by Henryk Semiradsky in 1886

I Know and I Declare

He buried his wife this Saturday.

I sat at the feet of this younger brother of mine as he said goodbye to his wife of four years, the mother of his one-year-old son.

I watch him struggle through despair, depression, doubt as he faces a long road of raising his son alone.

I watch my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.

Through this long struggle, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?

When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think?

What do I really believe about God in all of this?

God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world. We should not be surprised.

More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.

I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. Here is my conclusion.

I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness. I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love. I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does.

God promises that we will have trouble in this world. He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace. He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy.

Isn’t that a much bigger promise?

No matter what, God is still God.

Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like? Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good?

When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant.

How can I think that I know better than God what is good? How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good?

Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it? Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.

…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
~ King’s Cross by Timothy Keller

God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot



Of course he’s not safe. Who said anything about being safe? But he’s good. He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver as told to C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3

When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15

No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise.

God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole.

And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives.

Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth.

And then I look at Jesus, at His cross.

I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah. In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die. God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life. And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born. This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9

Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending.

Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best. Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people and creation.

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized)

credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon Solomon, Cross photo