By Bethany Riehl
Those are my two favorite words in Scripture that, thankfully, are repeated over and over lest my feeble mind forget.
I used to overlook these words when they arrived on the scene. Or maybe it’s that I wasn’t reading my Bible carefully enough. Multiple times in Scripture when all seems lost, the text speaks these words and reminds us of their great promise.
We see them after Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden. They were afraid, aware of their nakedness, the covering of fellowship and perfection gone, when we read, “But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9) Yes, He cast them from the garden, but His perfect plan was already in motion. There would be a Savior to undo the awful damage that had been done.
After the earth was cleansed by the Flood and all but eight souls were destroyed, Genesis 8:1 begins, “But God remembered Noah…”
Later, Joseph assures his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.” (Genesis 50:24)
David says in Psalm 49:15, “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”
I could share hundreds of examples, but I think they all come down to this ultimate truth:
“…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Six years ago, we were blessed to go through a series of trials that completely stripped away all of my previously conceived notions about who God is. When I say blessed, I mean it. I would rather go through suffering and know the real God than have a comfortable life spent possibly worshipping a false one. I had always known that He was good, but through various trials I learned that His good is not the same as mine.
Six years ago, life got real and raw very quickly. God began to show me the unedited reality of who He is. He opened my eyes to what His Word actually says about Him – instead of my own quick perusal and assumptions. No fluffy feel-good version of God where His goodness is measured by how well life is going, how big my house is, or how well-behaved my children are.
The “But God” reality.
The God that is bigger than physical pain and emotional suffering.
The God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The God that will not leave nor forsake, and who shows you exactly what that means when you surrender to Him and His will.
The God who refines with fire, sharpens with iron, and separates truth and love from lies and hate with a double-edged sword. His blade cuts too close for comfort at times, but God is a master surgeon with precise incisions. For our good and His glory.
The story of our lives could not have been more bleak when He saved us. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, helpless and hopeless. All of us. Every single one. And some reading this article are still in that place.
To borrow something my pastor said recently, we are just not good enough. We have to come to a place where we understand that. Our lives depend on acknowledging this unmistakable truth. We are not good. Forget enough. We are simply not good. We have no power on our own to save ourselves.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
God’s riches are so much more than we can imagine. A nice home, fancy car, and fat bank account are not examples of the goodness of God. Not really. Those are all temporal. The real goodness lies in the promises found in Ephesians 1:3-8a:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.”
As I write this article, my phone is beside me. I’ve been texting with my sister and father all day because my mom is in the hospital and it’s not looking like she will be coming home the way we expected her to, if she comes home at all.
Like most of you, I’m certain, I just can’t picture a world without my mom in it. Hers was the first heartbeat I heard, the first voice, the first warm embrace. She has encouraged me in my writing, talked through Scripture with me, fed my love of Revelation and the study of eschatology. Most importantly, she taught me to love Jesus. My heart is breaking.
This world is not our home. My mom repented and put her trust in the blood of Jesus as a child. Whether now or someday far in the future when we have to say good-bye, it will only be for a little while because of the marvelous mercy and grace of our great and glorious King Jesus.
But God, my friends. From the darkest of days to the brightest…
Bethany Riehl lives in the Treasure Valley with her husband, three kids, and one super chill dog. She and her husband homeschool their kids and were only slightly embarrassed when their lives didn’t change all that much when the world shut down in 2020. Hashtag, homebodies. She writes articles and fictional novels when she can, and her one desire is to point others to the love and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Her books can be found on Amazon or at your local library…after you request them to be in stock, of course.