Saturday, September 21, 2013

No Guarantees

When I was growing up, I was of the opinion that Romans 8:28 (which says that all things work together for good for those who know God and are called according to His purpose) meant God would fix up my mix-ups, and life would feel good.

I was wrong!

I was also of the opinion that if I obeyed my mommy and daddy, told the truth, didn't smoke, chew, or play with girls who do, then life would feel good.

I was wrong!

For a long time, I thought that if I did what the "experts" said was right, with my money, and my time, and I followed the Golden Rule, and I worked hard, life would feel good.

I was wrong!

Unfortunately, Romans 8:28 doesn't mean that God will fix up my mix-ups and make life feel good. Romans 8:28 has proven, in my experience, to mean that life doesn't always feel good, but God is always good, and I can always trust Him.

For many years, my bad theology didn't really do me any harm. Each bad experience I had in life could pretty much be directly tied to my own stupid choices, and (based on my interpretation of Romans 8:28) God fixed up my mix-ups and made life feel pretty good. Then, quite suddenly, on a very normal day in November, life ceased to feel good. My precious, and much anticipated baby, was dead. I was four months pregnant with a baby I desperately wanted. And I was doing everything right; getting enough sleep, eating right, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, trying to exercise. I was doing everything right. But my baby still died.

Then, four months later, my sister died. I didn't even get to say goodbye.

And, when I got home from my sister's funeral, my "big" boss was waiting to talk to me; we were being transferred.

Life suddenly felt really, really bad. And I couldn't see anything that I had done wrong. My interpretation of Romans 8:28 was obviously very incorrect. My understanding of God's character was shaken, to the core.

In the years since my heartbreaking, life-shattering experience, I have come to learn what I was looking for in my bad interpretation. I wanted a guarantee, that if I lived right, life would feel good, nothing bad would happen, and I'd have what I wanted. My bad interpretation was based on bad theology. God wasn't created in my image; I was created in His. He is the One who writes the rules, and those rules don't include any promises or guarantees that life will always feel good. 

Instead, what God promises is to be with me through the times in life that are the hardest. And that is very precious indeed.

Actually, the promise never to leave us or forsake us is a distinctly "Christian" concept. Other religions base support and fellowship on performance, and if you don't perform, you get what you deserve. We've begun to think like that in our culture, as well, and in grieves me. Instead of acknowledging that we're all broken and hurting, and extending God's love to each other, we've begun to look down our noses at others who suffer, because we know they must have done something to deserve it. The really scary part is, sometimes I am the one who thinks that way?!

God promises never to leave me or forsake me. He doesn't promise to make life feel good. He doesn't promise life will never be difficult, or that bad things won't happen, or that I'll be rich or beautiful or famous, even if I do everything He commands, just the way He commands it. In this life, there are no guarantees. There just aren't. But if I've learned anything through the struggles and pain and suffering I've experienced, it is that God is good, and I can trust Him, even when nothing makes sense.

I don't pretend to be able to explain why bad things happen to good people, or why children starve to death in Africa, or whether God sends people who have never heard about Him to Hell. I don't know. I don't understand God. But what I do know, and what I've experienced over and over and over again is that God is good and I can trust Him. Does that mean I always like what He does?  NO!!  Not at all. Do I always understand why suffering happens? Absolutely not. Have I struggled with God's decision to allow my youngest children to suffer so greatly at such young ages? You better believe it. But, when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I rest comfortably, knowing that my God will never leave me or forsake me. I look forward to hugging my sister again, introducing her to the nieces and nephews she has never met, and holding my precious Hannah and my sweet Kinza Noelle. I look forward to a big hug from my precious Savior, and He will wipe all my tears away.

Life is oh so hard, but God is so good.

And that is a guarantee.


Susan Evans said...

What a beautiful post about clinging to Christ despite life's difficulties!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your baby and Nicole leaving us so suddenly. How He makes us who we are through what we call trials and pain. (growth?)
He is always wise. The big picture is still being written. The Story Master has worked through you to help us see Jesus. His gospel is just that... how he redeems the challenges for His glory.
Much love, Trina