Undeserved kindness

“I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion;

therefore I will wait for Him.’

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him,

to the one who seeks Him;

It is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.”

Lamentations 3:24-26

It’s not that I haven’t been writing for the past seven months; it’s just that I didn’t write anything worth reading.  I was trying too hard to make meaning of the tragedy of miscarriage, arrogant enough to think that I could discover the purpose of pain and conquer it with some great Christian achievement.  It’s much easier to try and figure life out on my own than to wait on God.  So when the writing fell flat, so I tried other things.  I clocked more hours at work, tried and failed to start a few ministries, and generally burned myself out as I picked up my pace, thinking I was headed toward healing but eventually realizing I was stuck on a figurative treadmill.  The process was cloaked in righteous words, but it wasn’t the Christian way.  It was the prideful way, the fearful way, the way of Israel in the desert seeking every hope but the one true Hope. 

But God, in His incredible mercy, slowed me down.  With MORNING SICKNESS.  Because, surprise! I got pregnant again!  Can we just pause for a minute and consider how completely undeserved and beautiful that combined blessing is?  Not only did God slow me down to teach me to rest in Him, but also, He did it by fulfilling the desire of my heart!  This is our God, who not only can give us good gifts, but longs to give us good gifts.  This is our God, whose generosity is not based on our righteousness, but springs eternally from his own compassionate Self.  There is no god like Him!

I speak with great joy now, but my transition from one pregnancy to another wasn’t emotionally straightforward.  Thankfully, God in His kindness used the time to teach me about (1) waiting on Him, and (2) His incredible goodness.  This spring, as I tried to write about beauty for ashes, all I could see was ashes.  As I tried to write about finding purpose, I woke up every morning wondering what on earth I was good for that day.  Then, on day in late May, I was thunderstruck by the results of a routine pregnancy test and was suddenly glued to the couch for three months of morning sickness, during which I was too tired to write about anything.  When I stopped writing and started listening, God brushed away the life lessons I had tried to manufacture and the purpose I had tried to invent. He replaced them with an honest confession that I will never understand why our first child never got a chance at life on earth.  Although the memories of that little one have sweetened with time and often bring a smile these days, a piece of me remains unfinished until my heavenly reunion with him or her.  Sometimes, God does use tragedy to bring about greatly impactful change in our lives, but in my case, it remains one of a million quiet losses.  No great hymn took shape, no world-changing ministry began, no bestseller was penned.  But in the quiet recesses of my heart, God taught me that He is good not to those who understand Him, or to those who use their pain to identify a crystal clear purpose in life, or to those who successfully accomplish great works for Him, but to those who simply wait for Him (Lamentations 3:25).  He doesn’t require me to learn brilliant lessons or turn my pain into great deeds.  He has that covered.  He asks only for my love, attention, and quiet obedience.

Second, in the transition from one pregnancy to another, God taught me about his incredible goodness.  In His humor and wisdom, He timed this second pregnancy so that there would be no mistaking that I had done nothing to deserve the gift.  It came purely from His loving heart.  He blessed me not because I did anything to manipulate him or please Him or earn something from Him, but because He just loves to bless His children.  What’s more, He used this good gift to draw me back from confusion into quiet trust before Him.  I knew better than to depend on my own strength for comfort, but He didn’t use harshness or punishment to remind me of that.  He treated me as He did Israel in Hosea 2:14: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”  It was His kindness that led me to repentance (Romans 2:4).

God’s undeserved kindness to His people has been on display since the beginning of time.  Consider with me, for example, God’s character as revealed in Isaiah 30.  Isaiah, burdened with God’s heart for Israel, declares coming judgment in response to the nation’s sin.  He describes God’s beloved nation as “obstinate”, “heaping sin upon sin”, “deceitful”, “unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction”.  God pleads in response: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it” (verse 15).  Hence, Israel was slated for all kinds of deserved misery.  But three sentences later, God already can’t contain His mercy:

“But the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.  For the LORD is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (verse 18).  Isaiah continues, describing all the beautiful ways God will rescue Israel when they call on Him, because “the LORD binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted” (verse 26).  I love this passage, because it reminds me that God is good to us not only because His nature requires it and His covenant-keeping demands it, but also because His heart longs for it. He is an above-and-beyond Father who heaps blessing upon blessing on us as not even the most generous earthly father could. There is such delight in this! Delight filling God’s heart as He surprises us with good gifts, and delight in our hearts as we receive, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:20, “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

Our God, so often characterized as distant and judgmental, is an intimate and generous God who can’t help but pour out His goodness on us.  How can we not praise Him, trust Him, live in celebration of Him?  This spring, I was empty.  Empty heart, empty womb, empty search for meaning.  Now, I am full.  Full of the little wriggling, kicking life that tickles me in church.  Full of awe when I contemplate the graciousness of God.  Full of peace, knowing that when I get it wrong, the God who holds me in the palm of His hand will gently and decisively restore me.  I hope His display of grace in my life encourages you to see His displays of grace in your life, leading you to trust and love Him more.  To close, I can’t help but return to Paul’s praise in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”