A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Inconceivable! God is Good.

Habakkuk 3 

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
       and there are no grapes on the vines,
       though the olive crop fails
       and the fields produce no food,
       though there are no sheep in the pen
       and no cattle in the stalls,
 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
       I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
       he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
       he enables me to go on the heights.
       For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

The Princess Bride is a film brimming with goodness. It is tongue-in-cheek, funny, clever and chock full of memorable punchlines.

Those who know the film well will remember a vertically challenged individual named Vizzini. Vizzini, who has a tendency to speechify, has convinced himself that he is something of a great intellect ("Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons!"). And yet, on every occasion where there is an unexpected turn of events, he bellows a bewildered, "Inconceivable!"
At the third or fourth "inconceivable", one of his henchmen, a Spaniard sword-for-hire, Inigo Montoya says to him, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In vs.17, Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, foretells a time when Israel will become a barren land and the Hebrews will become exiled from their own country. And yet in the next verse, he says... “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord”. How can he say that? How can he "rejoice in the Lord" when the world that he knows will at some stage no longer be? It is inconceivable... impossible to comprehend or grasp fully. It goes against the grain.

An excellent piece in Our Daily Bread last Wednesday got me thinking along these lines:
When my brother-in-law was a missionary in Mali, West Africa, he was involved in a traffic accident. A man had wandered into the road in front of Chuck’s motorcycle. The cycle struck the man and sent Chuck and the bike sliding along the ground for more than 200 feet. Shortly after Chuck regained consciousness in the hospital, his doctor told him he had been “really lucky.” Chuck smiled and replied, “God is good.”
As I was reading the first paragraph, something occurred to me... “Is God only good because he escaped injury? What if he didn't? Would God not be good then... or would he be less good."
As I read on, I realised the writer and I were, by divine appointment, on the same page. It was as if his thinking and my thinking were being aligned to intersect.
Later he thought about the day’s events. The man who was struck hadn’t received any permanent injuries, and Chuck would also recover from his injuries. But what if one of them had been killed? He thought, God would be no less good.
When we experience tragedy, we may wonder about God’s goodness. Is God always good? Yes, He is. He doesn’t promise that bad things will never happen to us, but He does promise to be “our refuge and strength” (Ps. 46:1). He doesn’t promise that we will never walk through heart-wrenching circumstances, but He promises that we won’t be alone (Ps 23:4).
The day after I had read that devotional piece, I noticed that a Facebook friend was expressing his joy over finding his wallet and had declared that "God is good". This led me back to thinking again that if he had not found his wallet, would he have thought that God is good? Is God good only when good things happen to us?
It's a question that I have to pose to my inner person. None of us like suffering and pain but the truth is, suffering and pain are realities of life. So can we honestly say then that when terrible things happen, we can afffirm with joy in our soul... “God is good.” In our natural state, that thought would be inconceivable.

So what is it that makes the difference? Nothing more and nothing less than the truth, as Habakkuk discovers, that God is our Saviour. That we don't look to things or circumstances around us for our bearings... and for our security. But our ultimate hope is in the Lord who entered human history 2000 years ago to redeem humanity.

Someone asked me the other day after our Christianity Explored bible study, why is it that God allows bad things like cancer or suffering to happen to Christians? At the top of my head, I gave her 4 reasons. One is so that we can help others; Two, because this is a sinful world; Three, so that we can grow and become stronger and Fourthly, so as to test our faith – so that we know that what we say we have is real.
If we think of suffering in those terms, they can help us understand why it is the Bible writers can say with complete certainty that, “God is good” in all situations.

(This was adapted from a devotion that I gave at my church on Sunday, 21 March 2010)

1 comment:

  1. The Princess Bride! A film loved by many people, but amazingly, I have never seen it (or perhaps I saw it before my memory started functioning). I'm taking a mental note to borrow the DVD of it from the library.

    I've also asked myself the same question and thought about the things I've wanted most in life. Would I still love God if He didn't give them to me? It's easy for people to say "yes", but if God really doesn't give them the things they want - or even worse, they get cancer or a loved one dies - would they still mean it? I fervently hope I will. I don't want my love for God to be conditional on Him giving me the things I want in life. That would not be real love nor a demonstration of how God loves us - unconditionally.


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