I wonder if you’ve ever experienced the pain of doors slamming in your face? Of wounds inflicted by hands you know you should have been able to trust? I wonder if you have watched as the pathway you felt you were called to follow has been closed down before your very eyes? And all you can do is wonder what is left for you in this new place of hurt, hopelessness and confusion.
For various reasons, these issues have been closed to my heart for the last year. The questions of ‘where is God?’, ‘what is He doing?’ and ‘what do I do next?’ have been companions while walking a path that I didn’t expect to be taking.
There are moments in our lives where things that are done to us or things that happen to us can feel like being taken out of life and into a place of death.
But to quote the brilliant late Rachel Held Evans, if you want to find the God we worship, perhaps the best place to look is in the “rock bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this earth (including those of our hearts), because that’s where God works, that’s where God gardens.”
Our God dances in death filled spaces.
For me this is what Joseph is saying to his brothers, when he reflects on the life altering and deeply painful path they had sent him down, in the passage we reflected on this last Sunday:
You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done. Genesis 50:20 (NCV)
Our God is the God of transformation. Of redemption. Of bringing life out of death.
The evil done to us, the pain we experience, the dashed dreams that tear open our hearts – none are too difficult for the nurturing and restorative hands of our Saviour.
For me, the reality has been that as the doors closed around me, the power of God did what it always does. It transformed.
The spaces that I was brought out from (while kicking and crying) were replaced by what seemed at first to be barren emptiness. But in the hands of a creative, nurturing and utterly faithful God, those barren spaces have started to become rich spaces for new Kingdom growth and for the restoration of my soul.
I wouldn’t be ready to make the theological statement that God makes bad stuff happen to us so that he can use it for good stuff. I’m not at all convinced that that accurately reflects the image and character of our all loving Creator. But I am confident to say that we have a God who is well practiced in the art of redemption, of taking the most broken things, the most painful moments, the worst of ours and other’s sinful decisions, and utterly turning them round into things of beauty and life.
I don’t know where in your life you are experiencing pain, or loss, or the impact of sinful and unhelpful decisions around you. I don’t expect you in the midst of it to agree with this blog, or for you be willing or able to affirm what I’m saying – it’s taken me a real journey to even begin to articulate this for myself. But my prayer for you is that you would stand firm, that you would set your eyes to look out for the tiny buds of life that God may be growing from the ashes of your circumstance. And I pray that God would be faithful to you, as he has been to me, in working out his redemptive and healing plan in the midst of your pain.
Because, I truly do believe, that just as it was for Joseph, our deserts of brokenness will be utterly transformed by our faithful and loving God into gardens of His fruitfulness.