My friend and fellow Deeper Story writer, Seth Haines, wrote a post recently that really resonated with me. He wrote about the unintended double-edged sword of proclaiming God's favor. "I’ve heard the creeping theology of prosperity in the averted tragedies of others. They spill wonder-filled, mystical stories, recounting God’s graciousness in piecing together the impossible jig-saw puzzles of life."
You need to read his entire post to really get it. The comment I left there ended up being long enough for a post of its own, so I figured I'd share it here as well.
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I have found myself in the wrestling ground of this very issue for the past few years. I haven’t even been able to find words for what I’m grappling with, and I certainly haven’t come to any answers or conclusions.
But having walked through infidelity and then divorce, while surrounded by countless others whose infidelity journey (thankfully) ended in restoration/reconciliation, I am left with a pit-in-my-stomach feeling over my former position on the favor and goodness of God. Because as much as I’ve heard the seemingly careless remarks, I know I’ve made them in my lifetime as well.
“God is so good, and our marriage is better today than it ever was before.” “By God’s grace, we caught it in time and they got all the cancer.” “God is so faithful, and provision was there right when we needed it.”
Sometimes the provision doesn’t show up—sometimes the bills don’t get paid and the ministry God had clearly started is forced to close its doors. Sometimes the healing doesn’t come—like my beautiful, faith-filled friend who passed away last year or the chronic pain I live with daily. Sometimes the marriage doesn’t get restored—sometimes he really leaves to begin a new “happily ever after” with the other woman.
So do those outcomes mean that God isn’t good or faithful? Do they negate His grace or His love or His kindness? I know that they don’t. Because I know I can’t trust the God who gives without also trusting the God who takes away. He is one and the same, and His goodness is in anything His hand extends (and even in what it withholds). I know that He is both good and sovereign. The challenge lies in believing He is both of those at the same time.
I know that my gut-level cringing reaction to those seemingly flippant remarks about God being good when His favor is evident says more about me than the one who says them. Because I know they don’t mean them flippantly and I know they are right that God’s goodness is evident there.
The gritty sandpaper grating I feel inside is because I’m left wondering if I could say the same thing had the outcome been opposite. Or really, it’s because I’m left fully aware that I haven’t always done so. Even now, can I honestly and truly say I believe God’s grace, goodness, and faithfulness is evident in the way things turned out in my marriage? Maybe evident isn’t the right word. If “faith is the evidence of things not seen”, then I need to believe His goodness is there even if it isn’t evident.
And so I wrestle.
He is good. And He is sovereign. And both are displayed when the protection, provision, healing, and restoration shows up. And both are displayed when it doesn’t.
Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.