and if not, He is still good (Part 1)

God’s protection is in his promise of glory

I watcriverhed my dearest friend reliving the conversation she had with Jesus days before. Even through Skype, I could see that familiar love-struck, far away look she gets when she talks about her One love. I know the look well because we have shared it for years. As we swung in hammocks and mused at who He might be, marveled under blankets as stars fell in a black sky, or watched silent ripples dance down the river as we both grieved and rejoiced over what we were learning about Jesus. From the day I met her, she reminded me of that river, teeming with life and giggling with anticipation of the adventure ahead – seeming to wander but all of its parts headed in one, determined direction .

Yet, in the last few years her eyes have changed. The puppy love of fresh Jesus-relationship has been replaced with a deep, abiding, hope-filled sadness. In them I see the remnants of healed scars left by the most painful and powerful of loves. She has walked with Jesus for as long as I can remember, and now walks with the limp of one who has wrestled and been blessed.

Her love for Christ has driven her to the depths of human pain. She walks the streets of a red light district, building relationships with women in bondage. She has breathed in the stench and emptiness of abject poverty. She has seen those caught in the sex trade, and watched a young man die. She hasn’t opened up to me about every detail of what she has seen, but she doesn’t need to. I can see it. I can feel it. We have wept together over the burden she carries on behalf of those she is called to love. And though she has seen the reality of human suffering, she still holds fast to the fact of a good God.

I feel my heart ache as she tells me about sitting on the pier, telling her Love that she does not trust in his protection. She has seen too much. I ache because, though I haven’t seen what she has, my heart stifles the same fear. I am brought back to my own doubts. In my mind, if God is a good Father then that leads necessarily to His being a protecting Father. If I, like God, had the ability to protect my children from pain, from being hurt by others or their own choices, I absolutely would. Without question. Is that not what a good parent would do?

I snap back to the screen, she is describing to me Jesus hanging on the cross. His own Father dumping the entirety of his wrath onto the shoulders of his innocent son. And again, I feel the nibble of doubt that I have tucked into my soul’s depth: that’s not what a good daddy would do. But she doesn’t stop there. She says, “And then I felt him say to me, ‘Is He still on the cross?'” The answer is no. No, he was led through the most intense suffering, the most devastating rejection that any human has endured – carrying the just and full punishment of a Holy God alone. Alone. But he was not defeated by it. He passed through the waters, but they did not overcome him. The passing through was necessary, but the overcoming was merciful and glorious. She says, “So God’s protection is in his promise of glory.”

Jump ahead to a few days ago. I have wrestled, chewed on, and tossed around this conversation for months now. I am again bringing it before God. I think of my friend and my own beautiful daughters, and the prayer that has become a mantra escapes my lips, “Lord, let them love you the way she does.” But this time the prayer brings to mind a new question. “You know what she has endured to love me the way she does. Would you allow your daughters to face that same pain if it meant they could love me that way, too?” Suddenly, the puzzle pieces I have collected over the last few months begin to snap into place. All that God has been showing me about his sovereignty and his goodness leads to this question. And my answer reveals a turning point. “Yes.” I breathe. Yes because I hope nothing more for my children than to have Jesus. Yes because I know now that his protection is more than giving us comfortable circumstances, happy hearts, and cushy moments of worship. Yes because he is still good. Yes because his protection is in his promise of glory– “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

Over the next several weeks, I will be unpacking this journey the best that I can. As Christians, as mothers, as humans living in a relationally broken world– we will pass through the waters, we will wrestle, but we get to choose: do we walk away with the limp of one who is blessed, or do we just walk away?

Click HERE for and if not… (part 2 choose joy)

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