Can’t go forward. Can’t go back. Yet, even in the in-between, abundant his goodness.
Not, in certain contexts, that it feels that way, of course. A lot is in flux in my life and, as ever, it’s not appropriate to share it because…well, because honour. Honouring others means not necessarily living all of it out loud, the confusions and contradictions and painful parts. It means keeping it close until I have worked my way through to understanding what wholeness looks like in this in-between.
But I can say that the last six months have been some of the toughest in a long time. And that if I would simply give up on the things traditionally considered as ‘Christian ministry’, all the many facets of it as are in my life, all of the pain would go away in a moment. I am where I am because of following Jesus. And it’s not the same hard place that some of my brothers and sisters know. But it’s still less than joy-filled right now. As I said to a friend, I am more and more finding my joy in Jesus and less and less in ministry.
Yet, even now, abundant his goodness. He spoke it to me this morning as I prayed the Psalm which promises me the secret of his face. Abundant his goodness stored up for those who fear him. And he told me that this abundance was present now. That those things which have been a battle lately are even so filled with his abundance of goodness. He said it about the effort to progress my PhD which, quite honestly, feels tough in these days. He corrected my belief (again!) that it depends on me to get this thing. He denied that I was any good judge of whether or not my reading and writing and battling on was shot through with his goodness.
And then he moved on to those other things. The pains which are not mine to tell. And he said that his abundance of goodness was to me in all of these places too. That takes some believing. In a couple of things, it seems more like the enemy of our souls has moved to checkmate me quite effectively. But Jesus said differently this morning. He told me that abundant was his goodness to me even in those things.
All day since I’ve been mulling it over. For each of the apparent checkmates and pains. Where in this is the goodness of God to me? And my mindset has changed. What if these were not enemy attempts on my joy? Or, at least, what if that’s not all they were? What if the most true thing were that Jesus has allowed, even orchestrated – Calvinistic tendencies stand me in good stead every so often 😉 – these pains in order to dismantle the very defences I’ve cried out about? For if it is true in the next verse that he hides me in the secret of his face from the plots of men and women, from the strife of tongues, then nothing formed against me will succeed. But those things might just prove to be the very goodness of God to me, well-aimed dynamite to obliterate those defences.
So today we’ve been dismantling, Jesus and I. Well, he’s been dismantling, searing yet more little idolatries from my heart. And my very important contribution has been trying not to complain too hard. What about you? What might it mean to face your pain, your struggle, the less-thans of your life, and ask just one question: Where in this is the goodness of God to me?