Usually I write because otherwise I continually inflict everyone around me to endless prattling about my latest ideas, theories and spiritual experiences. So it’s like a courtesy to my loved ones and people I meet in the grocery store. It probably sounds awful, but the fact that what I’m sharing may be helpful or enlightening to other people is often just a pleasant by-product of dumping what’s in my head onto the page so I can be rid of it.
But every once in a blue moon, I do stop to ask God, “is there something you want me to say?” Usually there’s not. In my experience, God is far less opinionated about our lives than you’d think from listening to many Christians talk. But several times recently I’ve asked God, “is there something you want me to say?” And each time, I’ve gotten the same answer: “Tell them that I’m good.” Just that – “Tell them that I’m good” over and over. Which is fine and true and all, but doesn’t make for much of an essay. So finally I asked, “anything else?” And there was. “The only way out is through.” Ahh, now I’m beginning to see.
Here’s the deal; we’re all waiting to be rescued – aren’t we? I know I am – or was. I’ve pretty much accepted that there’s not a miracle or even necessarily a break just waiting around the bend. It’s a hard thing to make peace with. It’s probably a particularly hard thing for Christians to accept. From the time we are small we are raised on stories of the God who rescued the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt. The God of the Psalms who is our deliverer and will not let us fall. Who brings victory to us by his mighty right hand. A Savior with such healing power that simply touching the hem of his garment healed the woman with the issue of the blood. God is our savior, our deliverer, our ever present help in times of sorrow. The God who rescues is mother’s milk to us. And it’s all true. Every last bit of it.
But mother’s milk has to give way to meat. And it’s not a parent’s job to provide meat to a child for their entire life. At some point, we have to learn to go hunting for ourselves. And I believe firmly that we – Christians and humanity as a whole – have arrived at a time of having to grow up. God is with us. God will redeem whatever we go through, but it’s time for us to go through. Whatever it is that I’m facing or you’re facing, the only way out is through. God is good. He wouldn’t be pushing us to walk through whatever is in front of us if we weren’t ready and able.
And yeah, it’s going to hurt. I don’t know anyone who’s not embroiled in a struggle right now. If you don’t have money problems, you have family problems and if you don’t have family problems, you have other relationship problems or career problems and maybe you or someone you love has health problems, and if it’s not problems with physical health, it’s problems with mental health and if it’s not problems with mental health, it’s spiritual health and odds are you’re dealing with many or all of them at the same time. It’s probably always been so, but I wasn’t always here, so I can only speak to what I see going on today. It’s hard. But God is good. We can trust in that. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to leave you. But he’s probably not going to come to your rescue either. Whatever you’re going through, it’s time to go through it.
It’s hard for us to understand how if God is so good, life is so hard. But look at reality. This world we have is the world that God made. It’s the world he made us from. It’s the world he made us for. It’s the world he made for us. And it’s good. It’s really good. Better than anything we could have done. But it’s also a world of predator and prey. It’s a world of lightening strikes and volcano’s and droughts. And here’s the thing; as much as those things may destroy, life couldn’t exist without them. Bacteria and viruses may be able to kill us and our children and elderly, but without them, there couldn’t be us to begin with. Good and hard aren’t opposed – they go hand in hand. Two sides of the same coin. That’s the reality our good and loving God made.
Just before Jesus died on the cross he cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” And still, God let him hang there. Still God did not show up to rescue him. Not even to comfort him. Because the only way out is through. Jesus had to walk through the torment and through the betrayal and through hell itself. Because that’s the way to redemption. For all of us. And in the middle of it, when we’re suffering and there’s no comfort, it’s very hard not to wonder what sort of God this is we’re trying to follow. What sort of God wouldn’t rescue his son from the cross or me from my petty miseries? And if he won’t, well what’s the point? Why don’t I just drown my miseries in my toxin of choice? Why am I trying so hard if this is just the way it is?
Well, because God is good. Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross. It ended in redemption. He was dead. There’s not really a worse outcome one can get for their efforts than to be tortured and killed. To be abandoned by your people, your friends and your God on the way. That’s pretty much the definition of a failed life and ministry by any reasonable standard. But God is good and Jesus was redeemed on the other side. Because he went through, we can become redeemed people and if we become redeemed people, eventually, we’ve been promised a redeemed world.
Don’t you want to live in a world that’s redeemed? I do. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of reading papers filled with stories about children blown up in wars and people starving and greed and abuse and just the back and forth nastiness that dominates the way we deal with each other. And I can’t do a damn thing about any of it. So I deal with what’s right in front of me. I trust that God is good and cast my lot in with him. And I’ve done it knowing full well that I’m following the path laid out by a man who literally went through hell to get to the other side. It’s taken me a long time accept it, but I’ve done it knowing that my reward almost certainly isn’t going to be rescue and comfort and a cheering section to encourage me on the way. What else is there to do, any ways? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life for this age.”
The last couple of years, my life has been hell. And what went before that wasn’t particularly easy either. Many times, I’d ask myself, “how did I end up here?” I’d go over and over the choices I had made and the things I had done, looking for where it all went wrong. I made many mistakes along the way to be sure. But those weren’t the things that lead me to my own personal pits of hell. Instead, at each point that I could say, “if only I hadn’t done that”, it was a point where I chose to do something God asked. To forgive something unforgivable. To love the unlovable. To obey. To stay the course. To hold onto myself in the middle of a hurricane. Often, once I’d sifted through all the pieces all I could say to myself is “God is good.” It was the only I had left to hang onto – that God is good.
I haven’t made it through to redemption yet. I don’t know if that will even happen in my lifetime. But I have been learning to make peace with not being rescued and often not even being comforted. I’m learning to walk through – however long it takes or whatever else it costs. I’ve lost enough by now to know that it doesn’t really matter. Life keeps going and so we might as well keep going to. Because the only way out is through. And God is good.