Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Between Good and Bad

Knowing God's nature can transform a fickle faith into bold belief, but this transformation comes in the most unexpected place: the tension.

A solid faith is not about the good times; anyone can trust God when life is good. It's not about the bad times; those of us who call ourselves Christians have an uncanny ability to find God even in the trouble. A solid faith is built somewhere between the two, when you don't know how things are going to turn out.

And I think this is one of the major objections an unbelieving world has to Christianity - that Christians are so black and white, so fickle. That we praise God in the joyous times and crumble before Him in the dark times and that we're always pointing to God when things are settled, but we're not showing the struggle in between. They're looking at us and seeing that our God is a God of results. That we can only seem to stand on Him when we know where we're going to land. That we float around and flit from belief to unbelief to doubt to confidence and back again until God shows what He's doing, and then we're right back on board. 

Indeed, the sad truth is that many Christians live their life precisely this way. In the questions, in the doubt, in the uncertainty, they forget God altogether. Then when it looks like things are settled, when it seems life is as it is going to be, they start looking for God again. Trying to find an unchanged God in a world that's just changed. It's hard to sustain faith this way. 

It's hard to sustain anything this way.

That's why it's so important to meditate on God's character, to anticipate what His nature says He must do. So you're not constantly adjusting to what God has done, but you're perpetually driven by His very nature.

I recently received some good news. There was a time in my life when I would have been shocked by such a word, when I would have thrown my hands in the air in surprise and declared, enthusiastically, "God is so good!" Simply by the very nature of the news. The problem is that at the very same time in my life, I would have spent the next morning cursing God. Because the next morning, I was frustrated. Something annoying and completely unrelated happened, and at the same time I would have thrown my hands in the air in praise, I would also have thrown them up in frustration and wondered why I just can't ever seem to have anything good for any length of time. 

This time, however, that was not the case. This time, I nearly broke down in tears when the good news came. My heart was broken before the Lord. Word of His faithfulness humbled me beyond my own words. The only response I could muster, in English, was "I am truly blessed beyond my measure." And when the next morning came and life was simply life? I could still hear the word of God and His faithfulness echo over my life. 

So what was different? What gave me this balanced moment of good and bad that doesn't shake a faith when I know in my heart how fickle I can be (and have been)? It was that in the waiting, in the in-between, I contemplated the character of God.

I considered what God had said He would do. I thought about what God has done, not just in my story but in every story that is part of His story. I meditated on His faithfulness before I had even seen it manifest in this particular situation, in my particular heart. I considered His love. His mercy. His grace. I let His word sink into my heart at the very same moment He was speaking it over me. When that good word came, I was not surprised; this was perfectly in line with God's character and with the words He had already spoken to me.

Easy to say when it's good news, right? Not so fast. Because I can say also that out of the very same heart that had spent the unknowing months contemplating God's character, if the news had not been what I had hoped or even anticipated, I would not have been shaken. Knowing who God is, knowing the word He has given me, knowing the way He keeps that word, I would have been disappointed but I would have been just as anxious to see how He was going to fulfill His word. At the same time my heart would mourn the bad news, I would be anticipating the coming day when God's better word is revealed. Trusting, knowing, absolutely certain, that such a day was coming...and soon.

Because here's the truth: God never works according to my word or yours. He always works in accordance with His word. And that's the measure of faith for any of us - do we know God's word deeply enough that we understand this truth? Are we anticipating what God will do because we know that He must? Are we holding onto what God looks like in our lives or are we anxious to see what our lives look like in Him? Subtle distinction, maybe, but incredible difference. 

All of this takes place not in the knowing, but in the unknowing. It takes place not in what's done, but what is being done. It happens not when the joys come or the other shoe drops, but somewhere in between when you don't know how things are going to work out. Prepare your heart for the revelation of God, and come what may, you will see Him. 

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