Have you ever flinched when someone shares a verse with you when you’re smack dab in the middle of a hard, trying, scary, disappointing, or painful circumstance? Do your thoughts lean toward the sarcastic and it takes what little energy you have left to hold your tongue? One of my favorite, go-to, verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes”. I often turn to that truth for comfort BUT, be forewarned – I may not be receptive to you quoting it to me when I’m in the midst of a trial. And I’ve talked to a number of people who concur.
It’s not a lack of faith or trust or love for God. Jesus has the grace to accept faith the size of a mustard seed. When our friends are hurting we ought to honor them with grace also. Your friend’s faith may be mountain sized, but that won’t numb their pain. Acknowledge their pain; don’t try to talk them out of it. Sometimes the best response is your silent presence. Sometimes it’s measured encouragement – truth in love.
There does come a time in a season of suffering that most of us start to reach out for truth as well as sympathy. Often it begins with a why or a what.
If God’s so good, why is he allowing this?
I believe God is good, so what’s He going to do to help me in or through this bad situation?
Great Bible teachers and theologians have studied for answers to these questions. I am not a great Bible teacher or a theologian. I wouldn’t presume to address these weighty questions with a blog post. I feel like anything I write will be serving cotton candy when a banquet is appropriate.
Finding Goodness in the Hard times
But we’re talking about looking for God’s goodness this month on my blog. How can we do this without addressing finding Him in the hard times?
I’ve talked to a few people of faith who have endured trials I can’t imagine enduring. They have the gravitas to address finding the goodness of God in hard times.
Three examples have the shared heartache of losing a child: one passed away as a toddler, two as young adults. One after a long suffering. Two suddenly. A common response when hearing someone has lost their child: “There can’t be anything worse”. Here’s what I’ve witnessed.
One mother doggedly sought signs of God’s comfort in a very specific way. She asked expectantly and was given eyes to see. Her son’s name is Jason and God started placing a “J” in the most unexpected places: from a cloud in the shape of a “J” to a “J” formed thread on the floor and a “J” stick on the sidewalk. She received these signs with a laugh and/or tears, knowing they were messages that God cared about her pain and her loss. They were reminders that he was caring for Jason; notes of Jesus’ lovingkindness. She calls her “J” sightings love notes. This gal also loves singing and worshipping. She kept doing what she loves and found comfort in it. And by clinging to her passions she embodied God’s goodness for those around her.
One father was grateful to see God’s goodness in God’s people. His church and his pastor did not offer verses to this man who knows the Bible like the back of his hand. They offered cards, a college fund for his grandchildren, a meal for those who attended the funeral, hugs, phone calls, and space for grief. They offered respect for this man of faith. Practical spirituality is a powerful good.
For the father of the toddler, realizing God is good even during the worst of times came after years of grief. He now says his son’s death was a turning point in his life. Again, I’m not going to address why God allows sorrowful situations sometimes and intervenes other times. But this father came to know the love of God and his need for God as he struggled through the loss of his child. This father can say “in all things God works for the good”. This man still mourns. And he rejoices.
Showing Goodness in the Hard Times
Many of us are in need of “goodness sightings” in the midst of far less dire circumstances. Our need comes from the heavy load of multiple trials coming in succession or overlapping one another. I have a friend whose work has hit a stress level that would have most of us walking out, at the same time her chronic health issues are multiplying, and she has received news that an unexpected issue with their home will take a jaw-dropping amount of money to correct. How can she possibly find sunshine while in this storm of trials?
It’s going to take some seeking, searching, chasing… Under the weight of these circumstances she may not have the energy to step out into the sunshine, yet alone work to travel there. She has an advantage: she has trusted Jesus for years. Those years have prepared her for such a time as this. Even so she may need someone else to find the sunshine for her. She is blessed to have a husband who trusts God’s goodness. A good spouse or a good friend listens to the Holy Spirit and discerns a right time and a right way to encourage.
I’ve been guilty of not asking the Holy Spirit before I speak. I’ve offered a list of good things to someone and they felt like I was accusing them of not being grateful. Oy! Not my intention, but the painful outcome. That can also be true when we give unrequested Bible verses.
Be Doers of the Word
If you’re an average Jane like me, may I suggest you pass the goodness and hold the sugar? Don’t get offended; I’m not calling scripture sugar. I believe scripture is the ultimate Good News. Let’s just not dole it out in the form of a platitude.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit tells us to BE THE GOODNESS they need to see, rather than tell them about the goodness they “should” see.
- Someone you care about is going through a hard time? Serve them some practical goodness and be prepared for the weightier questions if they come. Also be prepared to admit when you don’t have an answer.
- You’re going through a hard time? Forgive people who speak in platitudes. And give yourself a break while you’re at it! And, dear daughter or son of God, hold on, goodness is coming.
“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,” Romans 15:5