The check didn’t show up.  I had worked all week… I had practically groveled to get the customer to overnight it.  Without it I couldn’t pay our contractors and get them back to the job site the next week.  I had vocalized my faith to the staff and told them not to worry because the check would be on time.  We got confirmation that the customer had sent it and were expecting delivery 10:30am that Friday.  I was so sure that God had come through that I made a point of telling the staff that this was His doing and His faithfulness.  Yet at 10:30am the next morning, the check was not there.  The staff contacted the carrier and they admitted that they could not find the package…couldn’t find a priority overnight package!!  I once again noted my faith to our frantic staff that God would come through and they would find it by 5pm.  I waited by the phone from 4pm to 5pm and was so SURE that I would receive the call telling me the check had been located and all was well.  At 5:30pm, it didn’t matter any more…the banks were closed and there was no way to make the deadlines.

It’s then that it socked me in the gut.  Disappointment.  Anger.  “How could You let me down like that, God? I thought You were GOOD?”  I felt a bit like Nacho Libre when he says “I looked like a fool last night!”  But none of it was funny.  I was devastated because I felt like, in that moment, that God was anything but GOOD.

Disappointment is the worst isn’t it?  That painful sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that someone has let you down…it hurts.  It especially hurts when you feel that the only One who can be depended on is undependable.  When God disappoints us, we have nowhere else to turn.  And that was what I had to wrestle with that Friday afternoon.  I felt like in that moment that God had abandoned me…and I hated that feeling more than anything in the world.

As I worked through this questioning of the character of God, I realized that many times I have avoided hope and faith altogether.  It is just less risky and less painful to expect the worst…to be shocked if something actually does work out because you never even considered that it would.  And I realized something else…that this was not only cowardly, but often a sinful attitude of distrust and unbelief that God is who He says He is…that He is GOOD.

I specifically remember the weeks before I miscarried the first time.  I remember BEGGING God not to take my baby.  One particular moment, I was in the car at a stoplight (and I could tell you the very one to this day) and the song came on the radio that declares “You give and take away.  You give and take away.  My heart will choose to say ‘Lord, blessed be Your Name.'”  I choked up at the words as I told my Father, “I won’t be able to make it through if you take this child.”   I was caught on the “You give and take away”, but not quite willing for “my heart will choose to say”.  I wanted instead to talk God into doing things my way, so it wouldn’t hurt so bad and so that I didn’t have to question the goodness of God.  I was afraid that our relationship would not make it through that question.

I lost that baby a couple of weeks later.  Even as the shock of it wore off, I realized that God had provided grace and peace that I did not believe would be there.  I was afraid to count on God because I would rather have not had a reason to at all.

And isn’t that what it all boils down to.  God doesn’t do things our way.  Most of the time, He doesn’t follow the status quo… He jumps out of our box… He takes the long way when we prefer the short cut.  He is a God with a massive, incredible, intricate, and undeniable plan and in order to work it out, He often requires that we let go of our own narrative and let Him work His.  Only when we are willing to pray and MEAN, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”…only when we get to the point that we believe with all of our heart that His way is better…only when we can be walking through the valley of the shadow of death and still declaring loudly “But even still You are GOOD!”…will we find the kind of hope that doesn’t disappoint

The world waited for the Messiah through 400 years of darkness.  After 400 years, you better believe that they expected Him to come riding in on a white horse with His sword drawn to wipe out all the bad guys after which He would sit on a golden throne and wear a jewel filled crown.  Instead, He came in the most defenseless form available on earth.  He was laid in a trough that animals eat out of.  He was sought out by men evil enough to kill hundreds of babies to make sure He didn’t survive.  What in the world kind of plan was this, Lord?  Oh, but it only got better.  He walked the earth with not even a permanent home while He lived among common people, many who treated Him as if He too were common.  He was run out of towns, lied about, and plotted against.  And in the end, He was arrested, beaten, mocked, scorned, and crucified.  Surely Jesus must have been disappointed at how His Messiah life turned out.  I mean, how can God be GOOD when He allows all of this to happen to His own Son?

I think we all know the answer to that, because this wasn’t the end of the story.  As a matter of fact, the story still hasn’t ended.  God is still saving the world through His Son, Jesus Christ.  And in the life of His Son, He has shown us what true hope means.

“We know that all things work together for the GOOD of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Y’all, sometimes “all things” includes some very hard and ugly and painful and confusing things.  But our hope is in the fact that things like that do not limit the ability of our God to work them together for good.  I have to tell you, it makes all the difference in the world what we decide to hope in.  If it is our own dreams of how life should be and how things should turn out…if we hope in our own desires and outcomes…we are sure to be disappointed, because God doesn’t do things our way.  He does things His way…because His way is better.  However, if we will hope in the fact that whatever the circumstance, whatever the outcome, whatever our eyes see at the moment, that He can take THAT and work it until it is GOOD, we will never be disappointed, because He is faithful…Because God’s Son did not stay dead.  He arose.

After the check didn’t show up that day, God and I had a meeting.  I wasn’t happy and I didn’t like Him very much. I told Him that through crocodile tears, because I was livid at myself for my reaction to the situation.  And as He always is, He was so gracious to listen and to let me cry it out.  I crawled up into bed that night and turned on Netflix.  I wanted something lighthearted to make me forget all my troubles.  Instead, for no particular reason, I turned on a documentary called “Where was God?” (that I had never heard of before), a film reliving the tornado that devastated Moore, OK. Throughout the documentary, there were segue scenes of a man who was combing through the rubble, picking out pieces, and building something with them.  It wasn’t until the end of the film that the camera zooms out and the audience is able to see a tremendously beautiful work of art that he created from nothing but pieces of rubble.

Our God.  He is GOOD.  He is GOOD when you can see that goodness.  And He is GOOD when you can’t.  Tonight, I can think of a multitude of tragedies just in my circle of Christian family and friends that seem unfair, hopeless, and plain out BAD.  Can I just challenge you?  Right in the middle of that ugliness, just begin to declare “You are GOOD. I don’t know what this is… I don’t know why this is…I don’t know how I will get through it, but I DO KNOW that You are GOOD. And because You are GOOD, I can trust You to take even this and work it together for GOOD.”  That’s what He promised…not that He would do things our way, but that what He does in our lives will work together for GOOD.

The day after God settled it in my heart that He is GOOD no matter what I think about the circumstances of life, the check was found.  As late as I thought it was, in God’s book it was right on time.  And He worked it all together for GOOD.