But God

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.

Sisters,
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.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Letting Go

In the last post we talked about forgiving others. But there are two more people everyone needs to forgive. These people have probably disappointed and hurt you more often than anyone else. And we hold on to their hurts tightest and longest. Who are they? Ourselves and God.

We are our own worst critics. Despite our outward bravado, we hope others won’t see our sins and failures. We are ashamed. We kick ourselves for not doing better, for not being better. Everyone feels this way. Some people hide the extent of their negative self-talk. Others are clearly drowning in a sea of self-loathing and worthlessness. But this doesn’t have to be! God wants awareness of our sin to lead to spiritual change. For those who don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He offers hope:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

You are not alone! ALL have sinned. EVERYONE has felt the shame that you feel. But God, in His love, doesn’t want you to be stuck there. He offers forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Son’s life to make restitution for your sin. It’s the largest, most important gift you could ever receive! If you’ve never accepted it but want to, take a moment right now and tell Him.

Once we accept God’s gift and enter a relationship with Him, we have a clean slate before Him. Nothing — not even our own sin — can separate us from God. Since He can see our whole lives and knows every thought, word, and action — past, present and future — nothing will ever surprise Him or change His view of us.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:34, 38-39, NIV)

If God never condemns His children for their sins or draws back from them, why do we condemn ourselves and draw back from Him? Why do we forfeit the far more life He offers?  Because we see ourselves from a different perspective than God does. We still see ourselves as we were before Christ changed us while He sees who we are after Christ’s work in us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

Forgiving ourselves requires letting go and letting God.  It means we entrust the situation — and any negative consequences — to Him. We trust Him to restore what was lost or taken away that is needed. We trust Him to heal the damaged emotions of everyone who got hurt in the situation. While it is good for us to confess our sin to God and thank Him for His forgiveness, we don’t need to punish ourselves; Jesus has already taken that punishment for us. Forgiving ourselves separates us from our sin and brings far more life.

Are you hesitant to let go and let God? If so, maybe you need to forgive Him. God doesn’t ever sin; He is perfect. So he doesn’t technically need to be forgiven. But there are times we feel hurt, abandoned, disappointed, or misunderstood by Him because we are unable to see His actions and intentions correctly. Our negative emotions cause us to pull away from Him. To question His character, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and His intentions toward us. We are hesitant to believe His promises and obey His commands because Satan’s lies about God resonate louder inside us. We are afraid to get hurt again.

It is important to work through these hurts. Don’t be afraid to reveal your ugliest thoughts and feelings to God — He already knows them!

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  (Psalm 139:2-4, NIV)

It is hard work to uncover Satan’s lies and embrace the truth about God. But He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts. He compassionately meets us where we are. He patiently walks us through each step of faith. This wonderful promise He made the Israelites when they were far from Him is still true for us:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV)

The same promise is true for us!  God isn’t offended when we confess our hurt, anger, and distrust to Him. He doesn’t get angry when we admit He isn’t who we want Him to be and doesn’t do what we want Him to do. When we forgive Him, we let go of the false expectations that caused us pain. That releases us to see and experience Him — and life — the way He intended it. As a result, we see His true character and our desire to mold ourselves to His likeness grows. We discover that letting go brings far more life, life we had not even imagined was possible.

Sisters, 
For what to you need to forgive yourself?
For what do you need to forgive God?
Are you willing to let go of these hurts?

Thank God for character His qualities and promises that are most meaningful to you.
Commit to seeking Him this week; as you find Him enjoy far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso