There are aspects of God’s character that seem contradictory. He is completely loving. And completely righteous. He is forgiving. He cannot tolerate sin. We are made in His image. We are unlike Him in so many ways. He is predictable in some ways and surprising in others. So we have to choose: will we accept all of Him or only the parts we understand? Will we work to understand more or give up and pull away? He promises:
…If you search for him with all your heart, you will find him. (Deuteronomy 4:29, GNT).
God does not intend to hide from His children. While we will never understand Him perfectly in this life, we can grow in reconciling His seemingly contradictory qualities and actions. The better we understand Him, the more we experience far more life.
Here are two examples that give us insight into God’s heart:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him, saying, “The Lord, the Lord God, with loving-pity and loving-favor, slow to anger, filled with loving-kindness and truth, keeping loving-kindness for thousands, forgiving wrong-doing and sin. But He will not let the guilty go without being punished… (Exodus 34:6-7, NLV)
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world…But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us made us alive with Christ… (Ephesians 2:1-5, CSB)
Both passages set up a contrast that is linked by “but God”. God is loving, but God punishes sin. We were dead in our sin, but God is rich in mercy and love.
Think of situations where people make a statement then add, “but…”. The next words are often hard to hear. Or surprising. Or seem contradictory. In reality, whatever follows “but” brings clarification or perspective. It is important, even when it is hard to hear.
In the verses above, we like God’s loving side, but are less excited about his punishing side. We like that he shows mercy, but do not like to think of sin making us dead to Him. Far more life accepts both sides of “but God” as equally true and important. It embraces His complexity and seeks to understand the goodness of each characteristic and action. Even those that do not appear good at first glance.
I was curious to see what other “but God” statements are in His Word. I was surprised to find around 60 (number varies by translation). They include:
- But God remembered
- But God replied
- But God made no reply
- But God listened
- But God heard
- But God said
- But God can tell you
- Bud God has not allowed
- But God has seen
- But God will be with you
- But God intended
- But God will come to help you
- But God was angry
- But God delivered
- But God will redeem my soul
- But God will shoot my enemy
- But God will shatter my enemy
- But God is the strength of my heart
- But God is the judge
- But God provided
- But God made
- Bud God knows your heart
- But God prevented
- But God came
- But God forgives
- But God revealed
- But God raised him from the dead
- But God promised
- But God turned away
- But God demonstrates His love
- But God chose
- But God made it grow
- But God will destroy
- But God composed the church body
- But God gives
- But God comforts the downcast
- But God knows
- But God is one
- But God had mercy
- But God tests our hearts
- But God gives you his Holy Spirit
- But God is the builder of everything
- But God found fault
- But God disciplines us
Some of these bring a smile to my face. Others remind me of times when I was hurt or confused. But one psalmist declares:
You are good, and you do what is good… (Psalm 119:68, CSB)
God can see the big picture and knows what will bring us far more life and glorify Him. He is trustworthy. Even in our “but God” moments:
- When God replies, it is good. But when God makes no reply, it is also good.
- When God comforts, it is good. But when God disciplines, it is also good.
- When God made, it was good. But when God destroys, it will also be good.
I can think of so many times when I was headed the wrong way and a “but God” encounter got me back on track. I was distraught over a potential miscarriage, but God — through song lyrics quoting His Word — reminded me that He deserves my praise in all circumstances. I was angry with my husband, but God — through our guiding verses from Philippians — prompted me to choose unity and love over pride. I was uncertain how to handle a hard situation, but God — through the counsel of a wise friend — gave me a righteous and loving response. I was weighed down by worry and fear, but God — when I obediently prayed through my anxieties — filled me with peace that passes understanding.
Whatever roadblocks or challenges you are facing today, a “but God” encounter is available to you. If it is not obvious, ask Him to open your heart to recognize and accept it. He never wants you to remain stuck in fear, worry, sin, impatience, harshness, or other places that rob you of far more life. He will faithfully show you the way to far more life and give you “but God” stories to remember and share.
Is it easy or hard for you to accept that God does not contradict Himself, even though we cannot always reconcile aspects of His character?
Which “but God” statements from the list have you experienced?
How have you seen His goodness through a “but God” moment that looked like a roadblock?
Walk in far more life today as you humbly open yourself to accepting and understanding God for who He is, not just who you want Him to be.
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso