Quail and mud pies

One of my All-Time-Favorite People in the world is going through a really tough season in her life right now. Really tough. I am clumsily trying to walk this struggle with her. I say all the wrong things and misunderstand and trip over my words. And yet she still invites me in to her heart, and I love her for it. We have a recurring conversation lately: how do you pursue healing without making health an idol? In other words, when you are navigating a broken world and are in a dark, hurtful place of pain, how do you respond in such a way that you do not get distracted by wanting deliverance more than you want the Deliverer?

In my head, I want to offer a solution, to fix her situation: If you just do this, then this will happen and all will be well and you can get on with your life! But I keep my mouth shut because I don’t actually have the answers, and saying those things would just serve to demean her problems and cause further hurt. Instead, I pray with her and seek Christ with her and hope in our good God that this season will be short.

A friend recently posted an answered prayer to a health crisis on her Facebook wall. The first comment read, “God is good!”

Yes, God IS good. But when I see that kind of response to good news, I always think, what if the health crisis had ended in tragedy? Would that person have commented, “Horrible news. God is bad.” No, of course not. Yet I can’t help but think what we really mean when we respond with “God is good” is “Hooray! We got what we wanted—isn’t that awesome?! God is good because he answered our prayer the way we asked him to.”

I often hear the argument, If God is so good, why does he let bad things happen?

I’ve experienced enough struggle and sadness to know the answer: I don’t want a God who is limited to my understanding of Good. I actually want a God who works in mysterious ways, who uses suffering to produce beauty, who understands that Good always trumps Evil, who won’t let me be satisfied with a surfacey goodness that I measure by how happy I am in the moment. I want to trust a God who fights for Goodness in my life by providing journeys that walk through muck and mire. I don’t want to be satisfied with quail and mud pies. I want to hurt, yearn, and suffer so that I can experience the depth of peace and  hope and eventual redemption. That is Goodness!

Or so I say.

And now one of my All-Time-Favorite People is hurting. I have cried out to God on her behalf—deliver her! Please, Lord, save her! Please, Lord, help her to escape. I picture her alone in a deep well. I am at the top, trying to reach her, but my arm is pathetically short. I wonder if I should try to tell her how to get out of the well—maybe there are footholds she could find if she looked hard enough and she could climb out. Maybe there was a rope down there somewhere and she could throw it up to me.

Here I am—wanting deliverance for her more than the Deliverer.

I’ve forgotten the context, but our pastor recently asked in a sermon if we are okay with being mediocre. That question took my breath away. My parents were very high achievers, very hard workers. And they pushed us to achieve and perform well. It’s in my genes to want to be awesome. But it may not be in my genes to actually be awesome. This question made me examine my heart. And I see that when I am sick, my heart desires health over the Healer. When money is tight, I scream for provision over the Provider. When I am sad, I beg for relief rather than the Reliever. When I am scared, I call out for safety rather than the Savior. I am a fair-weather, flighty follower of Jesus.mud pies for you tooGod never promises that we will be awesome. He never promises health. Or that we’ll accomplish our dreams. Or that if we work hard enough, everything will turn out the way we want. Or that if we apply ourselves or pray hard enough, we’ll have what we want on this earth—a beautiful house, an ideal job, moral children. That is karma. Instead, God promises Grace. In his Goodness.

So here is my sister, in her dark well, and I am praying that God will deliver her. Yes, that prayer is okay—the Bible teaches us to ask our Father for what we need. But I am realizing that if I could throw her a rope and hoist her out of her well, her heart would still be broken. She doesn’t just need deliverance—she needs her Deliverer. Only God can heal her heart, draw her close, shower her with unconditional love, provide hope for her weary heart. Isn’t that what I really want for her? Isn’t that what I really want for myself?

This All-Time-Favorite Person’s struggle doesn’t mean God isn’t good. It means the opposite—that is God pursuing her, drawing her to him, proving his love to her, wiping the tears from her eyes, filling her heart with hope, calming her spirit with peace. This is Grace. And what is gooder than Grace?