And all the time GOD IS GOOD!
If you're from the south you've probably heard this a few hundred times in your life :) But have you ever had it tested in your life? I mean really tested?
Yesterday as we visited a church in Jinja we stood and sang along with 100 other "muzungus" and Ugandans,
"Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name.
Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name...
You give and take away,
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be your name."
And I was struck by the idea that in my life, this is true. I believe with all my heart that God is good. No matter what He's given or what He's taken away, He is good.
This isn't a lesson I came by easily. It wasn't that I always believed it with all my heart. I am not one of those blessed with innocent, childlike faith.
God taught me this lesson the hard way, through the suffering and death of my dad.
It was a lesson I didn't really care to learn. Who really wants to have their belief in God's goodness tested? Who really wants to go through something that shows whether or not they really believe what they say they do? I for sure didn't. But my dad was the one suffering and facing his own death, and he believed. He believed with all his heart in the goodness of his God. He used to tell us all the time, even through his last months, "God is firmly in control of my circumstances, and He is good." If he didn't doubt God's goodness, then how could I?
If God is good, then He only gives good gifts.
If God is good, then He only allows good things.
If God is good, then all this pain in our world...is it good too?
And I began to wonder if the problem was the way my worldview classified events. I was separating events in my mind based on my own definition of what was good or bad. And that creates a problem. Because then I began to see things that God says are good as bad things, simply because of my filter, the way I see the world. And that doesn't work.
We have a friend here in Karamoja who has seen a lot of "bad" things in her life. Things that might lead you to believe that God has not been good to her...and may even make you wonder how she could ever love or serve Him. At least, from an American point of view. Because we tend to think God owes us a good life...one that's free from suffering and pain. And when we don't get that good life we begin to doubt God's goodness, His unfailing love for us.
But not the Karimojong.
She lost her sons, all of them, to cattle raiding.
She lost her eye to a splinter, a freak accident.
She began losing the use of her hands after a long day of grinding sorghum. She thought it would pass, that they would begin working again with rest, but they got weaker and weaker. Now they are useless and floppy.
One of her legs began to weaken like her hands. Soon she was struggling to walk even short distances.
Then she began to get sick. Diarrhea wrecked her body. Her hides were soiled and stained from her constant leaking during the night. She was too weak to even crawl out of her hut to the dirt.
Her stomach hurt constantly. She was in pain all the time. She lost her appetite and all desire for food. She lost weight, a lot of weight.
And people began to stop caring.
She was not a useful woman anymore. She was surrounded by her family, her children and grandchildren literally live all around her, yet they did nothing for her.
She was abandoned.
Camille found her in the village and began taking her meals. Once a day, sometimes twice a day, Camille made the trek down the hill with a bowl of porridge or beans and posho. She was registered with the health center's feeding program and began receiving high calorie food supplements. We shared our fresh milk with her daily. Slowly the swelling in her feet and hands went down. Slowly her family began to care. Slowly they began to take responsibility for her, bathing her, dressing her, sometimes feeding her. They are learning, and her life is improving.
One visit we made to her was lengthened by the rain. It pounded down outside her little hut, making her front yard into rivers of mud. We squatted in the dark, feeding her and asking questions about her life. And we found out something extraordinary.
She believes that God is good.
She knows and understands that all these things that make up her life, the difficulties she has faced, are from the hand of God.
And she believes that God is good.
The Karimojong have an interesting belief about God. They believe that He is the shepherd, and we are his cows (almost like the Psalms!). They believe that He created us and our world, thus He has the right to do with us as He wishes. Just as a shepherd has the right to kill a cow if he wishes, God has the right to give or take away. These decisions don't make Him a good God or a bad God. He is GOD. He is sovereign. He is the creator. He gets to decide.
They understand something vital about God, something we, as Americans, are missing.
If there is rain, it is from God.
If there is no rain, it is from God.
If there is food, it is from God.
If there is no food, it is from God.
They live in complete dependency on God. They are always at His mercy. They know that God is good simply because He gave them life.
Anything else is just a bonus :)
The fact of the matter is, it's not about us, it's all about God and His glory.
And that is the most important thing.
No matter what happens to us, no matter who we say goodbye to in this life, no matter the struggles and trials, God is good. And His glory is our reward. If we can endure and be faithful, I believe that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I hope at the end of my life to have lived as faithfully as Job, to be able to say with him, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him;"
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21