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.

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Still W(rest)ling

It was just today that I noticed that the word wrestling has the word “rest” in it. That is significant to me, perhaps because I’ve been getting an average of 4 – 6 hours of sleep per night and am feeling tired all the time. It is not that I can’t get to sleep or can’t stay asleep . . . I’m choosing to stay awake until ungodly hours because this journey of mine has me unhinged.

Like a swinging door tossed back and forth by massive gusts of wind.

I’ve been talking to God a lot via story and imagination lately. Near the start of my counseling journey, I started writing a story loosely based on the concept of the movie Inside Out, in which I interact with personified different parts of myself (anxiety, hope, anger, etc.) I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me there. Though I realize it can’t come close to authoritative Biblical truth, I believe He is revealing wisdom to me in these messed-up pages that I bring to my counseling sessions unceremoniously wrinkled and folded and crammed in my purse.

Today I read a part of the story to her that I’d written over the weekend. If you’ve been following my blog or know me very well, you will know that I have often referenced where I’m at these past several months as wrestling God “at a crossroads” (sarcasm alert: Don’t you love the nebulous, noncommittal nature of that statement?).

Well, in this chapter, I meet with God in a garden that . . .

No matter the season, every flower was on the cusp of blooming. In my entire twenty-four years, not one flower had opened up its petals to display its full beauty. Not one flower had wilted and died, either. It was a premature beauty, this garden—full of a lingering, just-out-of-reach promise, like so many of the places I traveled and lived. It was an infuriating and comforting place all at once, and I would come here when I didn’t know where else to go.

When God comes to meet me at the garden, the flowers blossom at His touch. And at the end of our conversation, I am stunned at how He has also given me the power to reveal beauty–to release the flowers and trees into full bloom.

Spoiler alert: at the end, I find out that the garden is actually the crossroads.

What does all this mean?

It means I get to talk with you in more nebulous metaphors.

Actually, it simply means that I can rest.

I have mistakenly made the crossroads where I must make my monumental decision seem immediate and inescapable and impossible.

In truth, the crossroads was never meant to be just a place of wrestling. It is also meant to be a place of faith, of growth, of beauty in the confusion and indecision.

So here I am, resting in the wrestling. I’m getting a chance to drink some Gatorade and stretch and take a nap and talk with my competition. There is no need to rush to move past the wrestling match. There is no need to panic at my vacillating feelings. God will not be surprised at what path I choose, and if a wrong choice is made, that does not reflect upon my identity. As God’s child, nothing can take me out of His hand, not even myself.

 

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Four (out of approximately one million) things I have wondered lately:

1. Why am I in the situation I am in?
2. Why do I feel alone?
3. Why am I still awake?
4. Why are there no more Cheez-its? (answer: my sister ate them)

I’m about to tell you a story, without telling you the whole story. The past six months or so, I’ve been going to counseling (I cannot recommend this enough) and have been on an agonizing, confusing, frustrating, eye-opening journey through something I had done my very best to avoid my entire life up to now.

I cannot begin to list off all the resources that have been at my disposal during this ongoing struggle. Books, articles, interviews, podcasts, good friends, counseling, writing songs, writing stories . . . oops, I guess I did try to list them all. Seriously, my mind has been consumed by this journey for months on end.

In sifting through all of these words and trying to piece things together to reach a livable conclusion, I’ve noticed something . . . these resources and people are wonderful and clearly God-given and absolutely imperative to my journey, but I’ve been looking at them the wrong way.

I’ve selfishly been trying to save myself from pain by living vicariously through other peoples’ stories. Instead of accepting all these things primarily as encouragement that I am loved and not alone, I subconsciously count each conversation, songwriting session, testimony, etc. as another piece of armor to shield me from personal pain, as another weapon that I am supposed to use to win the war. What I’m finding is that all this armor and all these weapons I thought would keep me away from experiencing brokenness in my own story has in fact stockpiled into a storage center as large as Yankee stadium (or should I say Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs fans?) that has nearly driven me crazy.cloud-of-witnesses

I take great solace in my cloud of witnesses, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

I’ve been trying to turn my cloud of witnesses into an army of warriors. But what else are “witnesses” but people who watch you and cheer you on and who testify to the reality of your experience? The most avid fan at a baseball game is not going to suddenly run out into the field during the bottom of the 9th to take their turn at bat. However, witnesses do make a difference! Imagine the World Series without any witnesses…I would think that the players would feel a little discouraged that no one cared to show up. There is SO much more motivation to play well and play hard with so many people cheering you on! My cloud of witnesses encourage me tremendously, but they cannot prevent me from making mistakes and messing up and falling flat on my face. I should not expect myself to do everything perfectly just because I “know better,” just because I am aware of others’ failures and victories.

I must live my own story.

I must accept my own brokenness. I must persevere by looking to Jesus and to the joy set before me that comes from choosing to walk through suffering in order to follow Him.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-3