[I am pleased to have Maureen, who blogs at Emotionally Rich, writing for us today. I hope you check out her blog after reading her great post here on faith and the goodness of God.]
My husband loves to tell the story of the time he witnessed God’s hand of deliverance while on our church’s annual father-son camping trip to Goat Island. It seems there were thunderstorms all around on the evening that they were transporting guys over to the island. The storms were so bad, in fact, that the man who was driving the barge was frightened and called the island to ask them to pray. My husband says that they prayed and the storm lifted and went somewhere else. He tells that story to illustrate the powerful hand of God in the ministry of Goat Island. Storms dispelled, accidents avoided, beautiful weather – these are all put forward as indicators of God’s work in their midst.
But what would he say about God if the storm had not lifted? Does God cease to be good when circumstances are bad? What about those times when the weather is not sunny, when the storm touches down and wreaks havoc, when accidents happen and people are hurt? Do we conclude that God has abandoned us, that He hasn’t answered our prayers or that He is not powerful enough to save us at all times? Or do we look at ourselves and wonder what sin we have committed that prevents God from hearing our prayers?
I feel like I need to know the answers to these questions because of what is going on in my life right now. It seems to me like everything is going wrong. Even my husband, the optimist, has said that he feels like he’s living in the book of Job. I want to have a theology that makes sense in all of the many phases of life – in bad times as well as good, when God answers prayer with miracles and when He does not.
I keep going back to the story of Lazarus. John’s gospel tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet he stayed where he was two days and Lazarus died. The storm touched down. One can imagine that Martha and Mary prayed for their brother to get well, but he did not. Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They had faith, and there is no mention of sin blocking Jesus’ power, yet they went through a dreadful time of pain and loss.
What does that say about God? In “My Utmost for His Highest”, Oswald Chambers says that “Jesus trusted Mary and Martha with his silence, because he was about to reveal to them something greater about himself, that he was the resurrection and the life.” His love for them was so great that he was able to see them through the pain and agony to the other side.
If you look at the parable of the wise and foolish builders, the constant in the story is the storm. It touches down on both houses. What is different is whether or not the house falls, and that is determined by the solidity of the rock on which the house is built. Jesus says that those who hear his words and put them into practice have a foundation that will survive the storm. The story of Mary and Martha shows us that not only will we survive, but we can actually prosper spiritually as a result of the storm.
My intent in all this is not to minimize stories of God’s power as demonstrated by His deliverance from the storms of life. But we must not limit ourselves to telling each other only these stories, because they do not tell the entire truth about life, ourselves and faith in God. We need to encourage each other to hope in God at all times, even when we can’t point to miraculous deliverance from the storms of life, even when it looks like all is lost and God is silent.
The human heart is vulnerable to discouragement and despair. We want evidence that God loves us and we look to the circumstances around us to prove it to us. But the truth of the matter is – nothing, no circumstances, can separate us from the love of God. He has the power to save us and He has the power to hold us securely in His sustaining embrace while the storm rages.
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD. Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14.)