God’s Economy, My Good

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“It seems like you have this concept of God’s economy  . . . that if He gives a good gift . . . a job, a relationship, good health . . . to someone, then He must be taking away something good from someone else. But that’s not the way God works. He is the Giver of good gifts.”

God is the Giver of good gifts. 

God’s economy is goodness, not evil; flourishing, not suffering.

This was my turning point.

For over a year, I had been accusing God for His unfair, even cruel ruling in my life. I wanted something that didn’t seem wrong or unreasonable to ask for, and all I had learned in the past year was that if I followed the path I desired, I would not be following God’s will.

When my turning point materialized in the form of the wise words of my counselor, I was slowly emerging out of my dark night of the soul which sneered in the face of God and said: if I can’t have this, you clearly hate me, and I don’t want You anymore. The festering pool of misery where I’d been standing had risen up to my neck. I had only one choice . . . to try to swim out of my misery in a way that made complete sense to me and that would seem to give me the most happiness . . . or to let the waters rush over my head and see if God really was who He says He is . . . did He really care about this part of my life?

For once, I decided to place my bets on the goodness of God instead of my own wisdom.

I soon realized that God only needs one tiny act of surrender to reveal His goodness. It took me ten years of hiding and one year of intense grief and suffering to surrender my deepest desire and step out in faith that God is not only with me; He is also for me and for my good.

Let me just take a moment here to pause and say that the Enemy is crafty . . . I had to take a break from writing this blog post and go for a walk because I could feel panic and doubt set in . . . whispers of, ‘do you really believe God is good?’ ‘do you really believe He is not holding out on you?’ ‘you’re still struggling and grieving. If God is good why aren’t you completely happy and at peace all the time?’ I’m calling the Enemy out on His lies today. I do believe God is good. And when I don’t believe it, I will choose to try to believe it anyway. My happiness is not a prerequisite to God’s goodness.

The moment I let go of the design I’d drawn up for my life, God dropped me directly into the blueprint I thought I resented. I found myself flustered, bewildered at how quickly God showed me His plans are not arbitrary or cruel. That in fact, He had been on the edge of His seat, waiting for me to give Him a tiny space to show just how good of a Gift-Giver He is.

All these truths I “knew” were suddenly beginning to inexplicably and unexpectedly be experienced.

  • And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • How much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
  • Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
  • Taste and see that the Lord is goodblessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

This is not the prosperity gospel.

Am I happier than I have been in a while? Yes. But happiness is not the point. My struggles have not disappeared. My grief has not been absolved. Life will never be fair and life is often not good. I am not guaranteed ownership of any of the good gifts that God provides. There is no formula to receive God’s goodness. God gives whenever and however He wants to give.

But the memory of this particular gift, however long it lasts, given to me at the pinnacle of my surrender, will help me to lay down my will again, knowing that whatever God asks me to sacrifice, however painful the process, and even if I never see the fruit of my surrender . . . is truly for my good.

~~~

God calls us to risk the stories we want because it’s the only way we’ll live in the story we need – His. – Ben Riggs

There are many things I will never understand on this earth. There are many days I will think that my ways are better than God’s ways. Every day is a new opportunity to surrender. But what a relief it is to surrender into the arms of a God who is sitting on the edge of His throne, eagerly anticipating my participation in His story, in the economy of His goodness, with my ultimate gift the Creator of goodness Himself.

Coming Back to the Heart of Worship

heart of worshipOne of my earliest memories is singing through the huge binders of worship songs that my mom (who was the keyboardist at the church where I grew up) owned. I would go in my room by myself, shut the door, and flip through the hundreds of pages, singing classic ’90s favorites: “There is None Like You”, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”, “The Heart of Worship”, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” . . . the day I was baptized, one of the worship leaders commented on how I knew the lyrics to more of the songs we sang than anyone else at the church. He was probably right.

Somewhere, there is still a cassette tape of me singing worship songs when I was about four years old. I gave it to my mom, wanting her to give it to my pastor for “Pastor Appreciation Day”. She didn’t end up giving it to him, because it was “too cute” and she wanted to keep it. Every once in a long while, I dig up that cassette tape and listen to my tiny, high-pitched voice sing these praise songs.

When I was four, I didn’t think about the words I was singing. I don’t even remember being cognizant that I was singing these songs to God. But in a way, my childish worship was more honoring to God than the way I sing to Him now. How can that be? Then, I sang out of the pure happiness that music made me feel. I sang because I loved to sing. Now, my mind is clouded with pride and anxiety. I’m trying too hard to be real and vulnerable and sing the words with true desire in my heart, when God just wants me to find the happiness of song again. He wants me to tap back into that childish desire to hum and sing everywhere I go. My former habit of involuntarily humming music at the dinner table was more honoring than the duty-bound drudgery that singing with a congregation every Sunday has become.

To this day at worship gatherings, I’m known as a sort of worship music jukebox: “yeah–Lindsey can play anything!” come the cries of my friends, amazed that I often do not need chord sheets or lyrics for worship songs.

But even though I still remember lyrics and tunes, I’m losing something . . . I’m losing the memory of joy that made me look forward to every worship practice in my living room with my violin-transformed-guitar. I’m losing the desire to lose myself in song for hours and hours. Life and loss has caught up with me, telling me that there is no longer much of a reason to sing except as an expression of groaning desperation for God.

I started to write this blog post with a totally different direction in mind. I was going to talk about the song “Blessed Be Your Name”, particularly the words: “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say: blessed be Your Name”, and what that means and how that is possible.

But a small stirring in my heart caused me to remember a time when analyzing the words to worship songs and doubting everything I am singing and being plagued by pride and my own false images of God I’ve created over the years was not a struggle. That’s not to say I was a constantly happy child. Sometimes I think I must have been born with chronic anxiety. I had lots of silly and fun and wonderful moments as a kid, but I have always had an inexplicable underlying melancholy nature; aware of the immense evil and pain in the world. I don’t ever remember being completely carefree.

But when I sang–whether it was worship songs, Disney melodies, or tunes from Phantom of the Opera– I was free, happy and alive.

i could singI want to feel that way again. I want to sing just because I love the way singing makes me feel. Instead of singing at my circumstances, I want to sing irrespective of my circumstances. I want to be lost in the sense of feeling alive, of bubbling from the inside out with the joy of music.

The delighting in God’s creation of melody and lyric and harmony, is more pleasing to Him than the anxiety and self-absorption and attempts and failures at focusing on what we are singing about, that we all tend to bring to worship.

Matthew 21:16 says,

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’

Kids get it. They get it because they don’t care about “getting into it”. They sing truth without thinking about the consequences of that truth. They sing truth without being concerned about their authenticity, their pride, or their failures. They sing with eyes wide open, taking in the massive glory of God with their minuscule lens of life experience.

God help us all to become children again. Help us to come back to the heart of worship.

 

Whose Line is it Anyway?

I love comedy. Comedy transforms the ordinary, the absurd, and sometimes even the tragedies of life, into a pleasantly uncontrollable physiological response: laughter. In the TV game show Whose Line is it Anyway?, a few comedians are thrown into various pretend scenarios and games and are asked to improvise. The end result is hit or miss, but when they play off a scenario well, hysterical laughter ensues.

Sometime between the ages of 8 and 12, I wanted to be a comedian. I had always been good at making my family and friends laugh. My best friend and I even had a game we would play, aptly titled: Make Somebody Laugh. We would take turns doing various ridiculous things. The goal was to make the other person laugh ten times (the person would use their fingers to keep track of how many times they laughed). I was always eager to be the comedian, so when I was in the audience, I would often force some laughs so it would be back to my turn in the spotlight.

I was so excited about making people laugh that at eleven or twelve I pushed past my shyness to join an acting class. The first class included an improv game called FREEZE! in which two actors would start a scene. At any time, someone from the audience can shout “Freeze!” and enter the scene. Heart beating rapidly, I watched in exhilaration as the actors started their scene. It was now or never–I had to enter the scene. I knew exactly what to do.

“Freeze!” I said, a little timidly. I tapped one of the actors on the shoulder, they moved out of the way, and I resumed their position, which was in the middle of wrestling a chair. “Crikey! She’s a big one!” I morphed into my best Steve Irwin impression, pretending the chair was a crocodile. A chorus of laughter met my ears, and I felt a thrill of satisfaction, a bolstering of my self-worth. My “co-star” said something to me that moved the scene in a different direction than I was expecting, and my train of thought derailed.

I had thought that once I had jumped in, the rest of the scene would come naturally to me. Instead, I felt an inevitable sinking feeling in my gut as the initial laughter died down and I scrambled for a response. The remaining thirty seconds of the scene was agonizing. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Who am I kidding? I’m not funny. I’m shy. I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m doing! A mingled feeling of relief and embarrassment stirred when someone put me out of my misery and shouted, “freeze!” That was my first and last appearance at that class.

Sometimes life is a lot like an improv sketch.

Just like my first attempt at improv comedy, I jumped into my journey of self-discovery (approaching the year mark now) scared as hell but excited to forge my own path through a confusing scene. I knew the first couple lines to say. I even correctly predicted some of the dialogues and maneuvered my way around them with little difficulty. Like a good comedian, I delivered some one-liners that floored my audience. I’ve taken control of some of the twists and turns and used them as well as I can to my advantage.

But now, the thrill and the laughter has died down. I find myself thinking: Who am I kidding? I’m not equipped for this. I don’t know what I’m doing! And like a painfully awkward improv comedy sketch, I do not know what to say or do next.

I wait for someone to yell “freeze!” and take my place in this scene that I’ve messed up with my determination to force God’s will to align with my own. He isn’t budging on His part. And so far, neither have I. But I’m wearing down. Sometimes I’m worn down by bitterness, anger and grief. At other times, I’m worn down by faith . . . by faith in God’s goodness. It is a faith like Abraham’s, that makes no sense:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.'(Romans 4:18)

Immediately when I feel a hint of that kind of faith, I recoil. Am I being duped? Am I succumbing to some kind of manipulative plan of God’s to draw me to Himself through suffering? Am I losing the wrestling match?  

The Spirit of the sovereign God lives in us (Christ-followers) to transform us into becoming more like Jesus for our good and for His glory. We are also told that we have the free will to reject the Holy Spirit’s leading. Even so, does it not seem at times as if we are pawns in this game of life? Sometimes I ask myself what is speaking to me, keeping me here weighted at the crossroads: my conscience, my shame, or my God? I find it so hard to resist Him . . .

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:19-21)

In Whose Line is It Anyway? former host Drew Carey played a vital role. He introduced scenarios, stopped scenes in their tracks, and sometimes joined in the improv sketches himself. In a way, so it is with God. I’ve resisted Him as Lord of the game show, as Lord of my life. Like the time when I was derailed by how my fellow improv actor responded to my initial Steve Irwin impression, I am thrown off by a God who prefers to use the unexpected (and often the most painful) paths in life to bring about His good and loving purposes.