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157 || But God

I contacted Shattered last year because I wanted to write other people’s God stories. I even had a few in mind: my high school English teacher’s adoption story, and the young man at my church who was shot in a hunting accident one month before his wedding and how the bullet barely missed being fatal or paralyzing.

But when I wrote to the Shattered editors, they wanted to know more about me. So I told them a lot about my writing background, degrees and jobs, trying to sell them on my writing talents and experience, and a very brief synopsis of my own God story. My story includes a lot of ugly things. Being a workaholic. Spousal abandonment. Emotional divorce. Emotional affair. Suicide. “But God is good and God is sovereign,” I wrote in the email to them.

I’ll be honest, some days it’s harder to say it than others. But no matter how I feel about things in the past or in the present, it doesn’t change one bit that God is good. God is sovereign.

Naturally, in their reply to me, they wanted to know more. How could I say that phrase and mean it? How did I get where I am?

Unpacking My Story

My husband and I were married for 11 years, and somewhere between the busyness of two careers and two kids, we grew apart — really far apart. We grew so far apart that this Southern- Baptist-born-and-raised girl thought she wanted to divorce and find greener pastures. She also thought that her husband would like the idea too, since we were barely in a relationship anymore anyway.

Satan had me duped big time.

Instead, when I hit my breaking point and suggested separation, he was hurt deeply. And the pressure of all he was trying to do in his career coupled with our marriage slipping through his fingers was more than he felt he could take. He ended his life. I don’t like that he did. Selfishly, I don’t like it for myself. But I absolutely hate it for my sons, that they don’t get to grow up with their father alive and that suicide is now part of their stories.

Good And Sovereign

But God is good. And God is sovereign. So on what grounds do I say that on days both good and bad? For one, it’s true! Because God tells us so, directly and indirectly, in His Word. God tells us straight out that He is good, and He wants good things for us, plans to prosper and not harm us ( Jeremiah 29:11).

I think what I love most about God is all the places that He doesn’t just tell us that He’s good, He shows us through all of the “but God…” moments.

It rained for 40 days, and 150 days later the earth was still flooded, and Noah and his family and two of every animal had been in the ark for 190 days! But God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

Joseph’s brothers were going to kill him. They threw him in a well and sold him as a slave. He was then put in prison for a crime he didn’t even commit. His brothers intended to harm him, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20).

Paul wrote to the Ephesians that they were once dead because of disobedience and sin. “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil — the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature (Ephesians 2:1-5).

Over and over again the Bible tells us, “But God…”

“Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands” (I Samuel 23:14).

“But God raised him on the third day” (Acts 10:40).

And, “But God showed his great love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Handing Our Stories Over

Today’s stories are no different. My friends who adopt children into their homes have “but God” moments as does the young man who was shot, and me, and you. When we turn our stories over to Him, letting Him be the writer and stop writing our own stories, He can and will write a “but God” ending. My story is not over. In some ways it’s just getting started. I can come through the other side of a marriage and a husband who died because of my “but God” moments.

I strayed, but God never left me. I sinned, but God forgave me. I deserved nothing, but God has taken care of me and my sons. I don’t deserve that kind of mercy and grace, but God saw fit to give it, and I am so thankful He did.

The Right to Choose Wrong

Would I have preferred that God had talked my husband out of dying, or talked me out of my bad choices or just forced us to do what we should have? That sounds appealing. It sounds like a happier ending. Yet God, in His sovereignty, gives us the right to choose, even the right to choose wrong.

Yet, even when we make the wrong choice, He never leaves, and His love and grace never go away. Having been a Christian since I was a child, my walk has never been as deep as this. It’s one thing to talk about trusting God; it’s something else entirely to surrender and let God carry you. While I don’t like the things that happened that led to this place, I am thankful for a God who never leaves, even when we mess up — a God who is good in the bad times and sovereign all the time.

My story is messy and at times unpleasant. But God can take the story of a broken marriage and the death of a husband and father and use it to point others to Himself and His goodness.

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