Experience God as Good When Life Isn't
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2008 7 Apr
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Matt Rogers' new book, When Answers Aren’t Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn’t, (Zondervan, 2008).
When tragedy strikes your life, even the best theological answers don’t help. You know intellectually that God is good, and that He’s with you in the midst of this fallen world. But knowing that doesn’t take away the pain you feel.
The answers to life’s hardest questions become personal only when you experience God’s goodness for yourself. Here’s how you can experience God as good when life isn’t:
Make sure your expectations are accurate. Don’t be surprised when you encounter tragedies and challenges in life; expect some hard times because you live in a world that’s been tainted by sin. Remember that Jesus said you will have trouble in this world, but you can be encouraged by the fact that He has overcome the world. Call out to God in the midst of even the worst circumstances, and expect Him to answer you.
Give and receive kindness. Comfort other people who are hurting, and allow them to comfort you when you’re hurting. Through this exchange of kindness, you’ll see God’s love flow between you and others.
Be honest with God. You’ll discover that God cares about what you’re going through when you express your true thoughts and feelings to Him. Don’t be afraid to open up to God about your struggles; He already knows about them, anyway, and He still loves you. Remember that God Himself experiences both joy and pain. He will listen to all of your prayers and give you the peace you need.
Focus on the spiritual more than just the physical. Since the spiritual part of you will last for eternity, while the physical part of you is temporary, spiritual protection in our fallen world is more valuable than physical protection. Look beyond a concern with just physical safety to pursue spiritual safety, which is a much higher priority to God. Although you’ll never be guaranteed physical safety in this fallen world, you can always count on God’s help to deliver you from evil.
Embrace mystery. You’ll experience freedom when you accept the fact that you can’t know right now why God allows certain bad things to happen. You’re free to be human and don’t have to be God, with all His responsibilities. Stop the futile effort of trying to understand God’s ways from a limited human perspective. Instead, choose to trust His promise that, ultimately, everything will work out fine and accomplish good purposes.
Make good use of the time you have. The time you have to stay on earth is short. So instead of wasting it by numbing yourself to the world’s problems (such as by trying to escape through a vice of some kind), do what you can to make the world a better place because you lived. Contribute all you can to leave a positive and significant legacy behind.
Don’t sugarcoat evil. Whenever you encounter evil, call it what it is. Hold yourself and others accountable when you and they do wrong, rather than blaming circumstances for what really are failed moral choices. Grieve the existence of evil in the world and let it make you more acutely aware of your need for a Savior. Rather than pretending that evil will go away if you don’t pay attention to it, do all you can to fight evil through God’s power working in you.
Sense God’s goodness through His creation. Spend time out in nature regularly so you can experience God’s goodness through the senses He has given you: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. Let nature draw you out of intellectualism and into experience, so you can move beyond just ideas about God to actually sensing His presence. Look for God’s reflection in what He has created, and consider which of God’s qualities you better understand once you experience nature.
Notice and be thankful for the gifts God has given you. Stop to consider the huge array of gifts God has bestowed on you – from the most basic gift of each breath you take, to your unique talents. Be alert to the many gifts you see in the world. Let your gratitude for all that’s lovely and admirable regularly remind you that God cares about you individually and the world as a whole. Receive God’s gifts without feeling guilty; invite Him to lavish His unconditional love on you.
Take a trip. Get away now and then, because a change in your surroundings will give you a changed perspective on your life. It will enlarge your view of your circumstances and prevent you from being stuck in them, unable to see the bigger picture of God at work.
Make time regularly for silence and solitude. When you go to a quiet place by yourself, you can most easily concentrate on listening for God’s voice speaking to your spirit. Make a habit of doing so as often as you can. During your times of silence and solitude, seek something greater than just answers to your questions – seek God Himself.
Look forward to a better future. Remember God’s promises that there will come a time when sin no longer infects the world. Be assured that there is a better life to come.
Help make this world a better place right now. Take action to contribute to the world in whatever ways you sense God leading you to do so. Pray for direction about how best to use your natural talents and spiritual gifts serve God and other people in specific and meaningful ways. Help make your church a loving community, and work for justice in the world.
Go ahead and play. Realize that God wants you to enjoy life during the good times. Take full advantage of opportunities to have fun and laugh. Ask God to give you joy that isn’t dependent on changing circumstances.
Look for mercy at work around you. Notice the many acts of mercy God is doing in your life and the lives of other people you know. Thank Him for them.
Think about the Resurrection. Regularly remind yourself of this incredible historical reality. Understand that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you as a believer every day, if you choose to trust God with every part of your life and invite Him to work through you.
Give others hope. Share the Gospel message with other people as often as you can, to point them to spiritual hope. Back up your witness by helping to meet their physical needs (for food, shelter, medicine, etc.) when you can. Spread kindness indiscriminately in Jesus’ name, so others can experience His goodness.
Notice people who others may overlook. Ask God to help you be aware of people who might be overlooked by others, but who He wants you to recognize and encourage. Consider such people as babies, the elderly, the disabled, and prisoners. Let them know that they’re not forgotten. Reach out to them to share God’s love in meaningful ways, so they’ll come to know His goodness in their lives.
View time from the right perspective. Keep the past, present, and future in a healthy perspective. Remember how God has demonstrated His goodness in the past, embrace His work in the present, and prepare for the better world that’s coming in the future.
Adapted from When Answers Aren’t Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn’t, copyright 2008 by Matt Rogers. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Matt Rogers is copastor of New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech. 800 students call it home.