A few weeks ago I grabbed dinner with some girlfriends. Over chips and queso we laughed about our lives, newest endeavors, and our most recent workout obsession. After an hour of chit chat, one of my girlfriends asked us, “So what is the Lord teaching you right now?”
(She obviously loves Jesus more than the rest of us.)
Quickly the conversation turned from laughter to one of sober vulnerability, as one of my friends confessed her struggle to see God as a good Father. You see, God has allowed her to experience suffering. He has said no in some areas and has allowed pain, sickness, and heartache in others. And in the rubble, her hurt is so big she can’t see the good Father that is holding every detail in His hands.
As she shared her heart, tears welled up in my eyes because I, too, know what it’s like to wonder if God really is good. The wounds, though healed, are still fresh enough that when others talk about grief and questioning, my scars ache a little too. And these scars, although they speak of incredible pain, they also speak of miraculous healing and hope.
So I shared my story with my friend, because there is nothing more lonely than to share a struggle with friends and be met with judgmental or shocked eyes. And yet in contrast, there is something profoundly healing about the swapping of stories and being told, I see you and I feel your pain with you. You are not alone on this journey.
You see I remember the undoing. I remember sitting in a bathtub every night, wondering how a good God would allow such heartache in my life. I wrestled for weeks with doctrine that I knew to be true in my head, and wanted them to become true in my heart. And the longer I wrestled, beating myself up for not believing that God was good in the rubble, the harder it was to see the good in anything.
I memorized Scripture. I listened to worship music. I went to church. I told myself that if God did nothing more for me, He had done enough by giving me His son. I did all the “right” things and repeated all the clichés. Yet, when I would crawl back in my faithful bathtub, I would become undone again. Raw and naked before the Lord I would cry out and wonder if He had abandoned me and I’d beg Him to open my eyes to see that He was a good, good Father.
And in my bathtub one night, He did.
There was no audible voice, just silence. But in the silence my heart said, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17
And I scoffed. Awesome. Look around GOD, what good is left? My life is literally in ruins.
And then, “Look for me tomorrow in the good things.”
Oh OKAY. Great.
So I went to bed angry and annoyed at God’s request, but determined to show Him that He was wrong. THERE WERE NO GOOD THINGS IN THE WORLD ANYMORE. (I mean, at least I didn’t lose my flare for dramatics in the rubble).
When I woke up the next morning, my mom who had been living with me for weeks, made me eat some breakfast. As I sat there stubbornly complying, my heart nudged, “She’s a Good Thing.” Nope. Quickly I combatted that good thing by saying, “SHE WOULDN’T HAVE TO BE HERE IF I WASN’T COMPLETELY UNDONE!! THAT DOESN’T COUNT.” But the nudging continued.
Later that day, my children were playing nicely in the living room. “Good Thing,” my heart beat faster and softened a bit. I tried to combat it with all the cynicism I could muster, but the truth is, even on the worst of days having healthy happy children is undeniably a good thing.
And my heart softened some more.
A few sweet packages and cards came in the mail that day. “Good Things.” I took a nap and woke up thinking, “Good Thing.” And when the day was done and I crawled back into my faithful bathtub, my heart nudged again… “This bathtub that you love so much and this time with Me, as hard as it is, it’s a Good Thing.”
And in that moment, I was able to look back through my story of grief and pain, and could see thousands of ways the Lord had been kind to me even in my ruin. Thousands of ways he provided, protected, and prepared me for what I was facing. My eyes were opened and so began the discipline of LOOKING beyond my grief for God’s good hand.
Every night after my bath, I would crawl into bed and write down all the good things that happened that day. And after weeks of writing these things down, I had pages full of evidence of his kindness. To the naked eye, some of those good things might just be expected or ordinary, but to me they became small miracles. Tiny miracles that allowed me to know with both my head and my heart that “God is close to the brokenhearted.” And I was amazed at how I looked back and saw not only tiny miracles, but huge ones He did just for me to display His glory.
I have to be honest, it is not easy to share these parts of my story. But I do it here because I believe that like I mentioned above, there is beauty in sharing our scars that ultimately point more to His goodness than our pain. And I believe that many of you are hurting. You feel alone in questioning God’s goodness, but I’m here to look you in the eyes and tell you this...
You’re not alone & you’re no less of a Christian for wrestling with hard questions about faith amidst suffering. But even when you can’t see it or feel it, He’s still a good Father. Start looking for His hand and you will see it everywhere, even in the rubble… especially in the rubble. And one day, your wound, which is unbelievably painful, will eventually heal and become a scar that points more to His goodness than your pain.
Let my scar be a testimony of it and point you to our Good, GOOD Father.
Ps. What are some ways you look for and recount God’s goodness in your life?