You’ve probably heard believers say, “God is good!” Many add a postscript: “All the time.”
I’ve said these words myself, especially after seeing His protection or receiving His provision. I know they’re true. But I’ll be gut-wrenchingly honest with you: Sometimes I say them more from my will than from my emotions.
Social media tends to be a platform where we share the positive things in our lives. I recently shared news about the birth of my sixth grandchild. I wrote about God providing us with larger office space for our ministry, and how He provided renters for our townhouse so we could in turn rent the residence above that office space, and how He kept my motorcycle-riding daughter safe in her recent travels. I even posted a picture of buns I baked this week knowing my grandkidlets were coming for lunch.
All is well. So God is good, right?
Behind the public scenes of my life, however, I deal with an issue that I’ve never shared due to privacy concerns. This issue tests my faith on a daily basis. It causes me to think seriously about the lyrics I sing on Sunday mornings rather than just rattling them off by rote. And it causes me to wrestle with Sunday school theology that’s easy to apply in easy circumstances but not so much when life stinks.
But today I’m breaking that silence in hopes that others understand I don’t teach the things I teach because I live a dream (how many times have I heard women say, “I really want to do what you do”?). I wrestle with my faith, I struggle with trusting God’s wisdom and timing, and yes, sometimes I question His goodness—especially when it seems He’s withholding it from those I love.
I have one sister. She lives 30 minutes’ drive from my home, and I see her only two or three times a year. The last time I visited, we saw each other for about five minutes and ended our time with a pinky-finger hug.
My sister suffers from MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Scents of every sort trigger adverse reactions in her body. Before I visit her, I shower with unscented soap and shampoo, and I wash my clothes in unscented detergent. Still, those actions aren’t enough to prevent her from feeling sick because my dryer contains residual scents that my clothes pick up. If I hang my clothes outside to dry before wearing them to visit her, they pick up odors from the traffic that runs along the street beside our house.
My sister’s home has become toxic to her system. She now spends her days isolated in one room far from her kitchen because the cabinets emit nausea-causing odors undetectable to the rest of us. Even the computer keyboard emits gases that make her sick, so her world has become very small indeed. Leaving her home for medical treatment is impossible—traffic emits fumes, and diesel trucks and city buses are especially bad. She can’t visit a hair salon or a dentist’s office, either. She lives in solitary confinement, in a space about 8×10.
In contrast, my life involves world travel and public ministry galore. I’m very grateful every time I’m able to stay home for a stretch that allows a comfortable routine. But no matter where I am or what I’m doing, a piece of my heart is with my sister. I grieve for her and her inability to enjoy the simple freedoms like taking a walk, going to the grocery store, attending church or small group, or having tea with a girlfriend in the backyard. And I feel guilty that I am healthy while she is not, and I can’t do anything to make it all better.
Where is God in the midst of my sister’s suffering? Why hasn’t He answered our cries for her healing? Why does it seem He’s silent and distant?
And then I read the Psalms.
“O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
“Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me” (Psalm 13:1-6 NLT).
Will my sister ever know restored health? Will she ever rejoin the land of the living? Will the sparkle ever return to her eyes? I don’t know. I have no easy answers. And frankly, I don’t want to think about the option.
But this I do know: God’s love never fails. I don’t profess to understand His ways, but I cling to the hope that His promises bring because I’ve seen them prove true over and over again. I hang onto the truth that He’s constantly working behind-the-scenes in the lives of those who love Him, and someday in some way, He’ll bring good from something that seems so unfair.
I don’t teach the things I teach because my life is easy. It’s anything but that.
I teach the things I teach because I know they’re true. In the midst of the pain, in the midst of the suffering and unanswered questions, God is good.