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.

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Evolution, Suffering and Story Arcs

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Young earth creationist friends, this post will probably not resonate with you at all. In fact, it may make you angry. I ask that you would be gentle and not condemning if you comment, and that you would consider more than one possibility of how God created the world. Check out some BioLogos.

For hours now, I have been trying to come up with theories (assuming both evolution and a loving God are true) of why God would allow pain and death (animal at least, if not human) before the Fall. I thought that the ultimate thing that would bring doubt about God’s apparent-goodness/existence (our culture tends to assume the two are synonymous) for me was the existence of evil itself. But though mysteries continue to abound in that area, the plot thickens ever further as I try to reconcile real science with the real God of Christianity. And not being a scientist makes the effort that much more frustrating.

There are many questions about God and life that come back to bite me again and again. Some of my questions have been understood with experience. Some are answered by study and the help of the Holy Spirit. And some are unsolvable conundrums.

Regarding this agonizing question, absolutely no theory on the internet or what I have tried to come up with in my head makes any sense. I know I am like a sheep trying to understand the ways of its shepherd, and the analogy certainly helps. But it feels like I am watching my shepherd beat his sheep (and himself) to death just to bring about new life. Jesus’ parables and teachings are full of apparent paradox (as opposed to true paradox), and I know that He says that He who tries to save his life will lose it but he who lays down his life will find it…but–but–HUH? Is there no other way to bring life than through suffering? How is this the only way?

There are endless examples in nature of how death brings about life. Consider the food chain. Consider the fact that humans have to eat food, thereby killing a plant or animal, in order to live. Let’s think about this practically. We all hate suffering. We all hate death. However, would you trade this world we live in with such rich and diverse tastes of plant and animal life for nutritious and edible plastics and tin cans?

If not animals, most of us can stomach the death of plants. After all, we like to live. But the suffering and death of humans is an entirely different story. It’s personal.

What kind of stories do you like? Do you like the ones where nothing bad ever happens, where there is no need for resolution because there was never any problem to resolve? Or are you more inspired by the traditional story arc of inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution? Generally speaking, the world a protagonist lives in initially is quite stable–one might even say it is good or at least livable (if only for a sentence or two). But very quickly, something goes wrong and our hero is thrust into turmoil. The details of the journey thereafter is what makes a good story great.

I don’t believe human death did exist before the fall. But if it did, it doesn’t diminish God’s goodness. One thing is for sure: God does not enjoy pain. He does not delight in evil. Jesus wept. Before dying on the cross to save us from eternal condemnation, Jesus asked His Father if there was any other way for Him to restore the world. But there was only one option. Maybe its the same with evolution, and with death before the Fall. Perhaps the only way we could have such diversity and complexity of life–the only way we could experience life to the full and learn to trust our Creator–the only way we can have the resolution we long for–is to live the story arc. And living the story will create the beauty of the resolution we never could have experienced had pain never entered the picture. God only knows.

8 hours later…I read this in a Lent devotional, 40 Days of Decrease

Process can be a troublesome thing. It disrupts us and disorients us and we would much rather skip to the end. But to live true, we must allow process to run its course. Question it, weep through it, agonize over it . . . but, for the sake of our souls, we dare not truncate process because time alone makes its work soul-deep.

Today, fast premature resolution. Resist tidying up when you are in the muddy middle of the process of obedience-in-the-making. Befriend undone. Name the trouble. Like Jesus, talk to yourself and your Father God. Ask Him if alternative routes exist again and again and again . . . until you push through resistance, pass around resentment, press past resignation, and emerge into willful (even if tearful) partnership with God.