God Does Not Promise Teddy Bears

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I distinctly remember seeing this image during my wrestling with a dilemma that pitted my trust in God’s goodness against the pursuit of one of my deepest desires. Sentiments like the above picture gave me hope along the way, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that these hopes were misplaced and simply untrue.

I have never been one to opt in to the falsity of the prosperity gospel, but in my desperate heart, my theology was building upon a similar concept that if I just sacrifice enough, maybe God will give me something resembling what I want. 

Well, after sacrificing pursuing one of my deepest longings and losing two significant relationships in the past two years, I think I’ve learned something: God does not barter with humanity. Trusting God and sacrificing for Him does not get you a bigger teddy bear.

Still, God’s promises remain.

And thus, my second lesson in grace.

The first lesson was:

God bought me at a high price, and therefore I owe a great debt to grace. There is nothing He cannot reasonably ask of me.

Now, this truth:

God never guarantees a substitute for my sacrifices, but His grace will always provide abundantly more than I can ask or imagine ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISES.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 

2 Peter 1:3-4

I cannot add on to the promises of God a fulfilling career, a guarantee of marriage, or a stable emotional life — as much as I would like all of those things and more to be true.

Still, there are many promises and truths I can cling to that will never let me down . . . here are just a few of my favorites . . . truths I plan to meditate on in the coming months:

  • God will never leave me (Hebrews 13:5-6)
  • God knows me better than I even know myself (Psalm 139)
  • I have a High Priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15)
  • God weeps with me (John 11:35)
  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God – not even myself (Romans 8:38-39)
  • All things – even the worst things this life can bring me – will work together for my good in the end (Romans 8:28)
  • God will provide ways out of temptation, and the ability to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  • God loves me and desires me with an intensity and persistence of passion that no human could ever give (Isaiah 54:5, Ezekiel 16:8, Song 4:9, Hosea 2:19-20)
  • God is not ashamed of me (John 8:11)
  • God not only loves me. He LIKES me. He delights in me (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • God will always come for me, even when I resent and reject him (Matthew 18:12-13, Matthew 15:20)
  • I have an eternal home where all my unmet longings will be met and far surpassed in perfect relationship with God and with my brothers and sisters in Christ (John 14:24, John 14:2-3, Revelation 21:3-5)

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.

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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.