Posted on Sunday, Oct 10, 2021 by Scott Savage
Have you ever felt disillusioned by someone you thought you knew or trusted?
I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t felt whiplash in a relationship. Perhaps a close friend or family member acted in a selfish or destructive way. A trusted confidant widely shared a secret that shattered trust.
In those moments, there’s a big challenge in front of each of us. Do we interpret that one action in the context of what we’ve known over time about their character? Or do we reconsider our understanding of someone’s character in light of this recent choice or behavior?
Those moments are really hard with friends, family members, and co-workers. However, they are even more difficult when the person who surprised or shocked us is God!
Throughout the Scriptures, we read about the goodness of God. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there are dozens of references to God’s goodness.
Nahum 1:7 announces the goodness of God. “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.
Psalm 119:68 instructs us that goodness is God’s character and God’s activity. “You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.”
Psalm 145:9 expands the recipients of God’s goodness to include everyone. “The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.”
Again, these verses just scratch the surface of the Bible’s consistent description of God’s goodness.
But, as I noted earlier, what do you do when you read that God is good and an experience (or even a season in your life) feels like it contradicts this truth? What happens when you read that God is good, does good, and gives good gifts and experience the opposite?
If that’s your experience today, or the experience of someone you love, you are far from alone. Many churches struggle to create safety and freedom to be this honest about our life and faith experience, but God has given us plenty of that space and freedom in the narrative of Scripture.
In Job 1, Job and his wife mourn and grieve a horrific wave of loss and pain. Job’s wife wanted her husband to curse God and to judge God’s goodness based upon their current loss and pain. Her response is believable and some of us might find ourselves nodding our heads as we read it.
In contrast, Job offers a different response. He says, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Job introduces a paradigm for understanding the movement of God. For Job, God’s goodness didn’t imply he only allows good in the lives of his children. Job believed that God’s children needed to be prepared to accept good and bad from Him, trusting in His divine understanding over their limited human comprehension.
Whenever I read Job 1 and 2, I consider whether I would have been more like Job or his wife. Take a minute to consider your most recent bad experience. Please! Stop reading, look away from your device, be honest with yourself and God, and consider whose response fits you more closely.
Truthfully, I’ve been Job’s wife and I’ve been Job. I’ve responded with faith in God’s goodness, despite my current experience. At other times, I’ve responded with doubt and disillusionment, struggling to hold onto God’s goodness when it felt like what I was getting was nothing close to good.
In light of these Biblical precedents and these very real human experiences, I want to suggest three responses to help you hold onto faith in God’s goodness especially when that’s hard.
1. Be honest about your experience, emotions, and questions with a trusted friend or mentor who shares your faith.
In their book, Sticky Faith, Kara Powell and Chap Clark share their research into students who grow up in the church and develop a sustainable faith of their own. According to their research, the greatest threat to “sticky faith” is unexpressed doubt. When the next generation is unable to be honest about questions and doubts, those become like an untreated infection in the body that can cause catastrophic damage. So, find someone who is a fellow believer and express those doubts and questions.
2. Step back from the intensity of your experience for a time and focus on your history with God along with the truth of Scripture.
Throughout the Bible, the people of God are called to build memorials that permanently and physically serve as reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness to his promises. Step back from your current experience and consider your past ones. What are your memorials? Recount those stories with your trusted friend. Open the Bible together and look for examples of God’s goodness to people like you, including promises and passages that God used to speak truth to you in the past.
3. Choose to interpret a moment or season in life based upon the truth of Scripture and God’s character across history.
As I noted at the beginning of this devotional, the temptation with any one negative experience is to make that one experience or moment (or even one area of your life) the defining thing about your relationship with God. One way to describe this mindset is “absolutizing.” Instead of absolutizing an experience, each of us can choose to interpret an experience in light of something much larger. The truth of Scripture - reflecting hundreds and thousands of years of God’s movement among his people - is so much bigger than any moment or even our lifetime. God’s character across human history reflects his faithfulness and promise-keeping.
In their popular song, “Too Good Not to Believe,” Cody Carnes and Brandon Lake sing, “I've lived stories that have proved Your faithfulness. And I've seen miracles my mind can't comprehend. And there is beauty in what I can't understand.”
RELATED CONTENT: "Too Good To Not Believe" by Cody Carnes & Brandon Lake
When we don’t understand what God is doing, we can hold onto faith in His goodness because of the stories we’ve lived and the miracles we’ve witnessed. Until this current struggle becomes one of those stories, hold on to faith and keep pressing forward.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the coolest last name ever. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He helps hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com