Here are two different ideas, which seem mutually exclusive but are both true:
1) This world is a broken place
2) God is good.
On the contrary, we might assume that if God is truly good then the world shouldn’t be a broken place. Or, we conclude that if the world turns out to be a broken place then God, therefore, cannot be good. Despite our tendency to arrive at either of these conclusions, the health of our spirituality results from our ability to see past both of them.
My wife, Michelle, and I officially became foster parents in January. The foster journey was a chance for us to plunge ourselves into an area of brokenness in our state. And it is broken beyond even what I had imagined. Our lives now intersect with a group of people that I’d normally not find myself around all that often. This has provided great perspective for my spirituality. I’m given a daily reminder of the broken world in my interactions with the many people involved with our foster child. They suffer through challenges most of which I’ve never had to deal with. I’m reminded of hardship through their point of view.
But this can quickly become overwhelming.
Just this week I felt the need to encourage my wife after I sensed the heaviness of the hurt in this world taking a toll on her. It fills her mind and overwhelms her emotions. This is why many people who sacrificially give of themselves for others often burn out in the process. I reminded her that this is but half of the equation.
The other reality is that the God we see in the Bible is a good God. That’s not to say He doesn’t do things beyond our explanation or understanding. Yet for Christians, our conclusion is that God is indeed good. And this is a truth we need to celebrate and respond to accordingly.
But this can quickly become isolating.
We can develop a taste only for goodness and, therefore, find ourselves filtering out anything else. Especially in our culture, the American Dream lulls many Christians into closing their eyes to the hurts around them. We put Jeremiah 29:11 on enough bumper stickers until we convince ourselves that God cares primarily about our prosperity. We can isolate ourselves through Christian music, Christian books, and Christian friends. You eventually become that person that others cannot seem to relate with anymore. If your toughest prayer request involves your difficult Pinterest projects, you might need to adjust your lens to the world.
Some people want to only focus on the brokenness in the world and allow themselves to fault God, Christianity, and any form of the Church in the process. With this as our focus, we feel overwhelmed with life. Other people want to focus only on the goodness of God and close their eyes to the many manifestations of brokenness they see around them. With this as our focus, we feel isolated in life.
We can err in either direction. The first step comes from realizing where you naturally lean and finding people and opportunities that help you live more balanced between the two. A good God has allowed us enough free will to sufficiently break much of the goodness in creation, yet He positions His people to display a Kingdom of not yet into now. He invites us to speak a dynamic language translating Heaven to earth and bringing hope into the despair.
• Jeremy Jernigan is executive pastor of creative arts at Central Christian Church. As a second-generation preacher, he has a passion for discovering and communicating truth and has authored the book, “Crowdsourcing the Message.” Connect with him on his blog, TomorrowsReflection.com.