Have you ever wondered if you’re the only one?
The only one trying to find peace in the midst of questions that won’t quit?
Or maybe, you’re the only one talking about the questions?
Sarah Bessey’s book, “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith,” has been on my mind for a while now for exactly these reasons. Her book is a balm to souls that wrestle.
Maybe they’ve wrestled with stories about who God is, who they are, or who the church is.
Maybe they’ve wrestled with the wounds of abuse at the hands of folks who claim Jesus as their leader.
And maybe, they’re just like the rest of us, sojourners on a path that is beautiful and rewarding but not always comfortable.
This leads me to the question I’ve been asking myself for a while now. How has my own thinking changed? Where has my ‘own out of sorts’ moments brought me?
So here it is: I used to think God’s holiness meant he was unkind and angry, and now I think his goodness is overwhelming.
I used to think he waited for me to make a mistake, hoping I would, so he could teach me a lesson. I wondered, at least a little, if he celebrated my pain. I used to think he was blameless and righteous, but now I see, I didn’t think he was good.
As a recovering perfectionist this view of God allowed my system of fear to continue. Because as a faith based perfectionist, what better motivation to be perfect than a fear of an angry heavenly father who was ready to pounce on my mistakes?
You better believe this kept me in line, of course it did. But in those seasons I couldn’t connect with the parts of God I needed most.
I needed his goodness.
I needed to know that He was faithful not just because he was holy or righteous but because he was good.
In my work as a counselor, coming to the conclusion that God is good, is the single greatest contributor to my work. Because if God is not good, I don’t know why I do what I do.
If his common grace is not an attribute to his character, I have no more motivation to love people well.
If I don’t believe that his posture to those in pain, in fact, to myself in pain, is gentle and kind, then I don’t know what to tell the folks about their pain.
Now I know.
I know he is good and kind and benevolent. Not for any other reason than because this is part of his character. His self desired goodness.
I remember when I first began to get this about God’s character. While in seminary, I finally had the time to chew on this aching question in my soul. How and when does God show up in pain? Why does he allow pain? Is he happy about my pain?
In those times, I began to search out and learn the character of God, even while walking through extraordinarily difficult events in my own life with the support of a community who wanted to know God well.
My mentor gave me a book about the attributes of God by A.W. Tozer and this is what he says about God’s goodness:
“Divine goodness, as one of God’s attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect, and eternal. Since God is immutable He never varies in the intensity of His loving-kindness. He has never been kinder than He now is, nor will He ever be less kind. He is no respecter of persons but makes His sun to shine on the evil as well as the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust. The cause of His goodness is in Himself; the recipients of His goodness are all His beneficiaries without merit and without recompense” (Tozer, 83).
It seems everything changed for me, when I believed, when I really knew, that God is good.
No, all the stories and the baggage and the pain didn’t just disappear. But my experience of God in the pain changed. Now I could see he was with me and always had been. Now I saw as the tears fell, his heart broke.
Now I see that he was not at all like I thought he was.