I’m finding it hard to keep from dwelling on all that is wrong in the world these days. I’m not really a nattering nabob of negativity (thanks to my son for teaching me that wonderful descriptor). But you have to agree that each new day seems to bring news of yet another frightening, sad, or evil thing that is happening in the world—both at home and far away.
Things like . . . Airport bombs in Brussels and Istanbul. Other major terrorist attacks in Nice, Orlando, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Religious freedoms stripped from Russians. Police murdered in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Great Britain exiting the European Union. Turkey’s government threatened by a coup. Civil war fomenting in South Sudan. Tasteless, corrupt, and scandalous behavior displayed in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. And everywhere, evil called good and good called evil (see Isaiah 5:20).
I’m not being cranky, I promise. And I’m not pining for the good old days, either—if such days even existed. But these things do weigh me down.
So much so, in fact, that my prayers recently have been more groaning and pleading than praising. And while a lament is therapy for the soul once in a while, I don’t recommend a steady diet of them.
The other day I apologized to God for all the heavy-hearted praying I’ve been doing lately. He responded with two simple words: But God.
I was a little puzzled. “But God? What do You mean?”
As I pondered, I recalled some of the psalms in which the writer described evils and troubles and then said things like
“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” (9:18)
“But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.” (49:15)
“But God will shoot them with his arrows; they will suddenly be struck down.” (64:7)
“But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.” (66:19)
“But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (73:26)
“But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth” (74:12)
I decided to try my own version of “But God.” I grabbed my journal and wrote down everything that was causing me distress. Then, after each, I wrote “But God,” and invited the Holy Spirit to show me what I needed to know about God to bring peace to that concern. My list looked something like this:
The world is full of evil.
But God is righteous and good, and He rules over all.
Governments the world-over seem to be in chaos and panic.
But God is steady, our Rock and Prince of Peace.
Our nation appears to be unraveling and our leaders are full of pride and deceit.
But God is our true King, and He reigns forever.
Those who are supposed to lead us justify and promote evil while mocking what is good.
But God is truth. He is just and merciful and will bring all things right in the end.
Our culture is distracted and indifferent.
But God sees and knows all and is attentive to our cries.
I am battle-weary and tempted to give up.
But God is my strength and shield. He will defend and uphold me.
This simple “But God” exercise was the re-orientation my soul needed. It redirected my focus to where it needed to be: on God who is the answer to every problem that faces our troubled, broken world.
I wish I could say I did this exercise once and everything was all better. Not so. I need to keep going back to it. But that’s okay. I doubt very much that God is bothered if every day—or even multiple times each day—I have to take the time to refocus on who He is and return my attention to Him.