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Goodness In A Graveyard

“Can you still believe that God is good?”

In the middle of a graveyard, this was the question I wrestled with but never admitted haunted me…and yet this was the question I was forced to come face-to-face when it changed from a personal struggle and instead was asked by the person who sat down next me as I looked upon the grave where my love and future lay six feet underground.

There was once a time in the history of the Church that turned hearts towards Christ. Yet these days it seems that the false promise that Jesus came to give you Your Best Life Now has seeped into our thinking more than any of us care to admit.

Christ said that in this world we would have trouble (Jn 16:33). He did not promise to take it away, but that we would not be alone when it came. The promise of the gospel is not that we will be given lives free from harm, hardship, or hatred. Far from it.

I remember hearing preachers yelling that “Even if there is nothing after death…I would still be a Christian. Because this is the best way to live.” What they stated from the pulpit, and tried to drive home with emotional manipulation disguised as an alter call, is the same thing that testimonies where a better life because of Christ, rather than Christ Himself, become the selling point for salvation.

In contrast, Paul tells us that the Christian life finds its focus in the resurrection. This means that our hope is not the right person in office, getting the country we live to the place we imagine it used to be, hoping around like Goldilocks in search of a church that feels ‘just right’, finding the ‘right’ person, getting the better house, or whatever else we are chasing after.

Paul is clear that, as followers of King Jesus, we don’t place our hope in this life. Instead, we are called to place our hope in a place past Heaven. We look to the resurrection and the life that follows with Christ on the New Earth. In this life, we will never be outside the boundaries of brokenness. We hope in the resurrection and our faith is so grounded in this hope that without it we would be the most pitied people on the planet (1 Cor 15). And if this ain’t true…we’re better off drinking till we can’t walk and eating till we can’t stand up with no thought of tomorrow (1 cor 15:32).

On that bench, I thought about all the false promises that coming to Jesus would make everything better and give me the ‘good life’. I thought about friends who cared nothing about Christ, and I would be lying if I said I did not envy. I wrestled with the fact that Hannah’s father and other men in his ‘church’ had prayed that God would kill Hannah and hearing that he bragged about her death as an ‘answered prayer.’ I considered all the prayers that became ever unanswered the moment Hannah was killed. I thought about all of this and more as I tried to answer that question asked of me as I looked at the grave of the person I love more than anyone else.

I offered an answer that would be unwelcome with far too many in the Church…

“There is no f**king way He could be. If I consider the time between a Monday in April 1990 and sitting on this bench. There is no way I could believe that God loves me.”

My answer was honest. If you’ve never been in such a place…I hope you never will be. But, I know that this answer has echoed from many. Yet the fear of being cast off by those who claim the name of Jesus yet look nothing like Him is often greater than the belief that they could be as honest as those who wrote the Bible and still be welcomed in and loved through the pain.

In the rhythm of lament, I spoke what was in my heart without reservation or consideration of what would be thought of me. And in that same rhythm, I did not allow myself to stay there.

On that bench, I expressed that I the Bible to be true. And as such I was not allowed to begin my consideration of God’s goodness on the day of my birth, and I couldn’t believe that the day I find myself to be the end of my story or have the final word.

I must begin in eternity past when God saw just how sinful I would be, how broken I would become, how often I would fall, every time I would f**k up, the wounds I would bear, and the wounds I would end up giving to others. He saw the worst parts of me and instead of stepping aside, He stepped in. Instead of looking at my sin, He took it away. Instead of demanding that I become ‘good enough’ He covered me with a righteousness I never could have achieved (2 Cor 5:21).

No matter how bad life has been and regardless of how painful life now feels our story ends in a way that makes fairy tales look like horror stories. For the world will be made new, the destruction of sin and the pain it causes will be removed, everything wrong will be made right, every joy will be experienced to the fullest, and ‘everything sad will become untrue’ for all eternity. Forever and ever. World without end.

If I consider only my life, it is hard to believe that God is good. If I believe the lie that God exists to make my life, here and now, better…I am unable to trust Him. When I believe the pain of the moment to be most real, I am unable to believe that God is good.

Yet when meditating on the resurrection and life upon the New Earth I cannot believe that God is anything but good. When I trust that God will bring about my ultimate good rather than my immediate gratification I can trust Him even in the hard times.

I’ve asked myself every question that lead so many to walk away from Christ. Yet in His goodness, I have been able to reorient my focus upon eternity. And when eternity is in view even the deepest wounds and darkest seasons are seen as momentary and incomparable to the glory that shall be ours for all time (2 Cor 4:16-17).


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