What good is God?
This may sound like a startling question, but if our lives aren’t what we expected, if our cherished dreams aren’t coming true, if our prayers are seemingly unanswered, many of us will ask that very question at some point – or maybe you have already.
A dear friend recently walked away from faith with that question on her lips. What good does God do for us anyway?
Her newfound atheism is based on her experience. To her, ‘You go to church, read the Bible, believe in Jesus and try to live by godly principles. But when life comes crashing down around you and you sincerely cry out for help, God is strangely silent. He doesn’t help at all. So you begin to wonder if he ever was real in the first place. The Bible sounds like nonsense and Christianity looks like a massive hoax that in the end delivers nothing but empty promises. It gives people false hope. And that is the cruelest part of all.’
Have you heard that line of thinking before? Or more importantly, do you feel that way yourself? Did you build your life on a faith that you assumed was strong, only to find that what you were counting on, namely prayer answered swiftly in accordance with your will, feels more like a mirage than an oasis? Are you tired of hoping and waiting because you’re not sure what you’re hoping and waiting for anyway? Maybe it’s easier not to believe and just to play the cards you were dealt without waiting for a miracle. That way you won’t be disappointed. And you’ll be in control of your own life.
If those words resonate with you, I understand, at least partially, how you feel. I have not walked away from my faith, but I have felt let down by God. Wondered where he was. Felt my prayers bouncing off the walls.
I thought that the only way God could make things right was to change my circumstances. My prayer list was made up of the things I wanted God to change. Change my circumstances. Change my relationships. Change my health. Make it all better.
And so when it didn’t happen, I questioned God. Why didn’t he answer my sincere prayers?
But what was strangely missing from my prayer list was asking God to change me. Perhaps I should have been asking him to help me accept the hand I was dealt -not because God couldn’t bring a miracle but because maybe, just maybe, God was going to use that very hand for my best. Perhaps he chose every card purposefully. To bring me joy. To draw me to himself. To bring him glory.
It was when I realized that changed circumstances were not his greatest blessings that my perspective changed.
I saw that perhaps the biggest miracle of all would be to want Jesus more than I wanted a comfortable life. That I would see that his work in me and my fellowship with him as the real prizes, the real gifts God bestows in this life. That walking with him, being changed by him, being in love with him, were far more precious than anything else he could possibly give me.
So I want to say to my friend, “Please don’t give up. I know it’s hard to trust what you cannot see. Don’t stop talking to God. Cry out to him to answer. But ask him to show you what his greatest treasures are. Ask him to give you eyes of faith. Ask him to show you that often his most loving answer can look wholly different from what you imagined. While God’s timing may seem horrible and it may feel like he doesn’t care, the opposite is actually true.”
So back to the question, “What good is God?” It depends on what you treasure.
For those of us who are looking for God to miraculously deliver us out of hard situations so our dreams can come true here on earth, we may ask that question repeatedly until we finally walk away in disbelief. Because if a blissful, easier life is our goal, we will always be disappointed. Life will never measure up to our expectations and sometimes our dreams will turn into nightmares. And if we think God’s job is to give us what we want, perhaps we are looking for a magic genie, not a God to be worshipped.
But if we accept that only Jesus will bring lasting joy in this life, if we believe that heaven will exceed our dreams, and if we trust that God is orchestrating everything for our best, then we will find the Lord incredibly precious. We will fall down before him in worship and gratitude. No matter what our circumstances.
I will keep praying for my friend. Interceding on her behalf. Asking God that the eyes of her heart would be enlightened so that she would know the hope to which he calls us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for those who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19). I know faith and trust are gifts. And mysteries. We can’t possess them unless God gives them to us. I am begging God to give them to her.
I want her to see the absolute beauty and goodness of God. To understand that this life will be over in the twinkling of an eye and to believe God has eternity to show us the immeasurable riches of his grace. And then we will see it was all worth it.
We will find that God has indeed been extravagantly good to us. Better than we deserve. For “no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).