(An earlier version of this post was originally delivered as a spoken testimony at a “Bluegrass Church” service at Settle Memorial UMC in Owensboro, Kentucky, and then first appeared in written form as a Facebook post after the service.)
Good, Good Father
Once, I was asked to give a testimony about God’s goodness. I told the pastor I’d be happy to–but as I thought about it, I realized that I’d also have to mention those times when it doesn’t seem like God is good.
If you think about God’s goodness, you can probably point to a moment in time you knew God was good. A beautiful day when creation awed you. A moment when you felt deeply Seen or Heard or Loved, and it just filled up your soul. You could have a million little daily things that add up to God being so good.
When God Shows Up
Some of us have even bigger moments that we can point to. One of mine was a time when I had just started driving. It was one of the first times I was really out in my car alone, and I ran out of gas. While I was sitting there, trying to decide if it would be safer to go on and start walking up to the nearest gas station or if I should sit where I was (I obviously started driving long before the advent of cell phones, y’all!) a truck pulled up behind me. The driver was a sweet older gentleman who gave me a ride to the gas station, and bought me a little plastic tank and paid for a little gas, and even showed me how to use it when we got back to my car. Looking back, I know that was a moment of God’s goodness.
And a few years later, when I was a young wife and mother, our apartment building had a fire. The apartment across the hall from us burned completely. Most of our belongings were okay; we just had to live without them for several weeks while the insurance company cleaned them. But the chemicals they use aren’t safe for babies, so everything we had for our four-month-old was a loss. People I had only recently met there in Nashville – and people I’d never met who only knew me from the internet! – sent boxes of baby clothes, gear, and gift cards so we could buy what we needed. That was such a sweet moment of God’s goodness.
How Far We’ve Come
A long time ago, God’s people had a prophet named Samuel. He had led them through some hard times, and then he took a stone and he named it Ebenezer. In Hebrew, it means, “thus far the Lord has brought us.” He stacked that stone up on some others, and there it stood as a big, tangible reminder. When they saw that stone, they could remember what God had done. They could remember that God was good and He loved them.
We need to hold on to our moments–the little, everyday ones and the big, shining examples–when we know that God is good. Because there will be days when everything looks dark and it doesn’t feel like God is good. When that happens, you can take those moments out of your pocket like a stone and remember.
The No Good, Very Bad Days
Because I’ve had a few of those times, too. There was one point when my marriage was on life support – and I honestly didn’t know if it would survive. And there was the time when we found out my mother, only fifty-one years old, had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Terminal.
In those times, it doesn’t feel like God is good.
A few generations after Samuel, God’s people had another prophet: Daniel. When he was alive, things were beyond bad. God’s people were being oppressed. They were captives in a land that hated them. Three Hebrews had just been rounded up & given a death sentence. But before they were executed, they got a chance to speak to the king.
And they said: We believe our God can save us from this. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT… He is still God. He is still Good. We wouldn’t turn away.
They Knew What They Knew
They had learned what Samuel had taught God’s people so many years before. They had Ebenezer moments they could point to and hold on to. They knew God was good even in their darkest times.
In my own dark times? Well.
God gave us healing and restoration and growth and grace in our marriage. It’s a good thing now. But my mom died after a hard eighteen months with cancer.
“Even if He does not… He is still God. He is still Good.”
Remember, My Friends
If you’re reading these words and you’re in a dark place, I want to encourage you to hold on to your Ebenezer moments. Lean in to the times when you knew God was good. (And if you are new to all this, and don’t have any you can remember–you can borrow some of mine. Talk to me. I read every comment; my email’s up there on the About page or you can tweet @ me.)
But if you’re in a good place, where all around you, you can see and feel God’s goodness? I have two things I want to encourage you to do.
First: pay attention and remember your Ebenezers. Write them down if you have to. Use the notes app on your phone, or an old-fashioned journal, or jot them in the back of your Bible. Just put them where you can find them on the next hard day.
Second: now tell someone! You might never know who’s having a hard time, and hearing your story of God’s goodness can make a difference. Tell someone over coffee, or post it on social media. Or mention it to the neighbor when you’re at the mailbox tomorrow afternoon.
That big Ebenezer stone Samuel posted was to remind God’s people of his provision and care–and it was public, so I bet the rest of their neighbors likely couldn’t help but see it. Remember your Ebenezers. I can’t wait to hear about them!