It was a year punctuated by the sudden death of my mother and my first miscarriage.  We were devoted to a parachurch ministry and my husband was working fulltime while finishing up his Bible degree. The lyrics, “God is good, all the time” had become dust in my mouth.  I became lost in grief and loss. There was a dark battle waging between the truth I had been taught about God and the emotions I felt. If God really did love me as His beloved daughter then why was life so gut wrenchingly hard?

The Bible tells of a man who may have had the same questions. Read the account of the last days of John the Baptist. John was the wilderness dweller who ate locusts and wild honey and didn’t flinch from preaching a message of repentance to a hostile crowd. He prepared the masses for the arrival of the Messiah.  Suddenly, things ground to a halt for John when he stepped on the toes of the local dictator. John was shut up in a cell and silenced. He had months to wonder if maybe he had possibly misheard God regarding his entire mission.  “When John the Baptist was in prison, he heard what Jesus was doing. He sent his followers.  They asked, “Are You the One Who was to come, or should we look for another?” (Matt. 11:2-3) Now in a Hallmark movie, Jesus would immediately rush to the prison cell, miraculously unlock the bars, and then hug John closely, reassuring him, “Yes John, I am the One and everything is going to be fine.”  However, our God is not a Hallmark scriptwriter. .Jesus said to John’s friends:  “Go and tell John what you see and hear. The blind are made to see. Those who could not walk are walking. Those who have had bad skin diseases are healed. Those who could not hear are hearing. The dead are raised up to life and the Good News is preached to poor people.”(Matt. 11:4-5) If I had been John, I would replied to Jesus’s response, “Good talk. You have performed miracles right and left, but hey, what about me?” Shortly after that, John was executed by Herod.  This is not the ending I would have picked.

It is easy to affirm God’s attribute of goodness when things are going well for us, but difficult when things are hard, especially when we can see others skating by.  That is the problem when we view God’s character in Hallmark terms. We look at circumstances and then judge God’s goodness. Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor of King’s Church, London comments, “God is good by definition. He is goodness itself.  He has never been faced with a catch-22 situation, forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, or flummoxed into a decision that was anything less than completely good. If God has done something, it is good.” End of story.

The cross demonstrated God’s eternal character – His goodness and generosity toward a creation that had spit in His face.  God the Father was good, even when His Son was suffering in agony.  God the Father was good, even when Mary, Jesus’ mother was watching her son being tortured.  God the Father was good even to the thief crucified adjacent to Jesus, even though the thief would never have time on this earth to do one good deed to deserve an ounce of God’s goodness. God was good through the darkness and generous with His goodness.

Goodness is Who God is.  He is good, all the time, even if tears are streaming down my face and I am having trouble facing another sunrise. My God doesn’t write short-term Hallmark stories. My God has written His eternal goodness in His own blood and that is something I can trust in.  He is goodness itself.  That’s just Who He is. 

Good follow-up reading: Psalm 34:8; Exodus 34:6; James 1:17; Psalm 27:13; Psalm 145:5-7


I love the character “Pig-Pen” from the comic strip Peanuts.  Charles M. Schultz, the creator, described Pig-Pen as “a human soil bank who raises a cloud of dust on a perfectly clean street and passes out gumdrops that are invariably black.” In one strip, Pig-Pen cleans himself up for a party, but the other Peanuts characters do not let him in because they can’t recognize him. 

In some ways, Jonah in chapter 3 also became unrecognizable.  Afterall, he had been bleached by fish stomach acids for three days, was covered with seaweed, and the stench of dead fish followed him.  It’s possible that Jonah also changed internally, at least for a short time.  He obeyed God. The obedient Jonah is the opposite of the Jonah who ran off to Tarshish. 

And then we arrive at Jonah chapter 4.  While in the fish, Jonah had tearfully prayed, “But with the voice of thanksgiving I will sacrifice to You; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” That lovely prayer seems to evaporate after Jonah hits dry land.  How do we know this? Jonah preaches, the city repents, God spares Nineveh and Jonah is enraged.  As dirt was instantly attracted to Pig-Pen, so a sinful heart was magnetized to Jonah. Instead of giving God the glory for the revival, Jonah is angry. The prayer Jonah now utters is a complaint, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! “So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!” 

Former fish-food Jonah is furious at God for showing the Ninevites mercy, even though God’s mercy had kept Jonah from drowning in the depths of the sea. In his tantrum, Jonah leaves the city and gives himself a front row seat, still hoping God will change His mind and rain fire and brimstone on Nineveh.   

The front seat turns into a hot seat.  The sun is oppressive. Jonah is overjoyed when “God designated a plant, and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head, to relieve him of his discomfort.”  This is the first time Jonah is ever described as happy.  That’s pretty sad.  He’s not jubilant that lives have been saved; he is just happy regarding his personal comfort. He doesn’t recognize the shade plant as another act of mercy shown by a gracious God.  

Our guy falls to pieces when a worm is sent from God to eat the plant that shades Jonah.  Jonah begs with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life!” And that is the landscape of the heart of the Bible’s version of Pig-Pen, the reluctant prophet whose heart is just as rebellious as the Ninevites Jonah had been sent to. God sums up Jonah’s attitude by saying, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” The darkness in Jonah’s heart is laid bare.  

There is a scene in “The Peanuts Movie” of a school dance Pig-Pen is attending. Accidentally the water sprinklers go off.  Pig-Pen is briefly cleansed by the water fall and that prompts his dancing partner, Patty, to look at him and ask, “Do I know you?”  

This begs the question, where is your own heart right now?  Does it resemble self-righteous Jonah, the one who resented a loving merciful God? Or does it resemble the Jonah who we hope eventually responded to God’s question and finally repented, realizing he was no better than the people he was sent to preach to.  Are you the person who wants to be so changed by God that others will say, “Do I know you?”


In 2011 I endured a condition which could have become terminal: “Twisted Neck Syndrome”. It ate up my joy and my emotional, spiritual and mental health. Maybe you are familiar with a woman who contracted this very same condition? Unfortunately, she died of it – she turned into a pillar of salt. In Genesis, Lot’s wife was being physically pulled out of a disastrous situation and told by the angels to not look back. But she turned back, worshipping everything she was having to abandon. Rather than running forward towards God, she turned backwards.

Over ten years ago I entered a season in which I spent most of my time looking back and longing for the past. We had we lost our ministry, our home, our main source of income, our church family, a chunk of friends and lot of things I had pulled my identity from. I soundly rejected the reversals and didn’t want change.

Mark 10 relates the story of a young man who said he wanted to change. He had been scrupulously religious from his youth, knew the commandments and was loved by Jesus. Jesus knew what had captured his heart: the young man’s worldly goods. Jesus told him to let go of what he treasured. But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God]. (Mark 10:22 AMP).

In witnessing this, the disciple Peter commented to Jesus, “Look, we have given up everything and followed You [becoming Your disciples and accepting You as Teacher and Lord].” (Mark 10:28). In 2011 I had the attitude of Peter; I thought I deserved a bonus for everything that had been lost. Like me, Peter probably didn’t realize he was still carrying around a boatload of pride, self-righteousness, and self-preservation. Peter, like me, viewed everything he had given up and thought that was the definition of true commitment.

In contrast, honest devotion to Christ is compiling all those dreams, whatever they may be, and gladly laying them at the foot of the cross, at the feet of a good God. Real fidelity to Christ is not stockpiling a list of everything one has lost or may never have (regardless of the category) and feeling cheated at their loss. It is not forsaking a thankful heart and becoming resentful. Being a Christ follower is trusting God with His blessings which will replace what has been lost.

For me, the healing from my “neck condition” didn’t begin until I was finally ready to let the past stay in the past and trust in God’s character, that He is good, regardless of what the present looks like. I decided to adopt the attitude of the Apostle Paul, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:14) That’s when God healed my “twisted neck syndrome”. Will my life ever look like it was pre-2011? Actually, I hope not. I have discovered that this side of 2011 is far richer spiritually, emotionally and mentally than what I ever had before 2011. I am reaching forward to whatever lies ahead.



I dreaded my boss, was bored out of my mind at work, our finances were abysmal, and life was messy.  It goaded me that my friends seemed to have the ear of God while my prayers appeared to go no further than the ceiling. I felt like an unwanted guest at a stranger’s family reunion.  Yet I was a seasoned believer who had a fairly good grasp of her Bible and I believed I was obeying God.  Why wasn’t He answering my prayers?  I felt lost in the wilderness without a GPS.

          Did John the Baptist feel the same when he was abruptly sidelined from his ministry?  Before John’s birth, an angel had prophesied about John, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:15-17) This baby grew up to become the thunderous “Voice in the Wilderness”, the one who heralded the coming of the Messiah and baptized the Christ. John was on a roll till everything turned upside down when he publicly called out King Herod on immorality.  The King arrested John, put him in chains and sent him to prison to appease the new Mrs. Herod, Herodias (Herod’s former sister-in-law). 

The prison doors slammed shut and everything seemed to come to an end.  Hours stretched to days, to weeks and then to months.  John began having some doubts about his ministry.  Had he been effective?  Had he been following God’s directions?  Was this Jesus really the Messiah?  John finally sent word to two of his disciples, begging them to ask Jesus a vital question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”. (Luke 7:20)

Jesus didn’t address John’s questions immediately nor did He run off to assure John that everything was fine.  “In the next two or three hours Jesus healed many from diseases, distress, and evil spirits. To many of the blind he gave the gift of sight. Then He gave His answer: “Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them.”  (Luke 7:19-23) While Jesus could do miracles, He did not break John out of prison.  The word was simply: “John, you know what the Messiah was prophesied to be doing.  You are seeing this all played out.  Count yourself as fortunate that you have had a ringside seat to it.”

Gene Edwards in “The Third Cell” further sums up the life lesson of John the Baptist:   “A day like that which awaited John (The Baptist) awaits us all.  It is unavoidable because every believer imagines his God to be a certain way, and is quite sure his Lord will do certain things under certain conditions.  But your Lord is never quite what you imagined Him to be.

I have journeyed through my own wilderness seasons, challenged to reach focus my plans and to rest my faith in the One Who created the universe.  God doesn’t usually do what I want, on my schedule, but God indeed uses those hardships to stretch my faith way beyond its normal parameters.  Jesus has given me the same message as John the Baptist: Your Lord is never quite what you imagined Him to be, because He is BETTER!


We were standing outside on the platform in the sweltering heat.  As we glanced down the tracks, there was no train bound for Philadelphia.  30, 45, 60 minutes – well past the scheduled arrival time.  You could not only see frustration on the faces of the ticket holders, but you could hear the verbal complaints ratcheting up the longer the hold up.  We had no choice but to all be waiting.

That is a difference between waiting (which everyone does at one point or another) and patiently waiting.  Believers have a choice in how they wait.  James chapter five uses the illustration of a farmer waiting for the rains that will make his crops grow.  The farmer doesn’t have the power to bring the rains.  Instead, he chooses to patiently go about his daily chores, depending on God to bring the rain that will make the crops grow.  Patience is the choice when we take our circumstances and decide to believe that God is Sovereign over the circumstances, no matter how painful the circumstances.  It’s a choice to stay steady and strong even in the face of extreme adversity because we know the end game:  Jesus is coming.

I have a dear friend, Mary (name changed), a fellow believer, who has been waiting on God’s platform for about five years.  With the diagnosis of cancer, Mary was given a prognosis of 1 year = tops.  Then came surgery, chemo, radiation.  The cancer is aggressive and life expectancy was still less than a year.  Two years later, Mary was at the doctor and he blurted out, “I’m not quite sure why you are still alive.”  The cancer is still there, but five years later, Mary is also still here. 

During this waiting time, the cancer has ravaged her body.  Mary would have good reason to shake her fists at God and rachet up her complaints.  However, she has instead decided to spend her time patiently planting seeds.  She has loved on the medical professionals who have attended to her, she has shared her hope in Jesus Christ with those who are hurting, and she is one of the most gentle and vibrant people I know.  In Galatians 5 we read that two of the fruits of the Spirit are “peace and patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting]”.(Amplified Version) Mary makes a daily choice of whether or not to keep firmly holding on to the truth that the “Lord is full of compassion and is merciful”.  She has endured.  Mary’s train has not come yet, but she can see it in the distance. 

Which group of ticket holders would you identify with: those who were angry that their plans had been diverted, delayed or cancelled?  Or those who are waiting patiently in the expectancy that Christ is coming and all will be made right?  As a believer you have the power to wait, by the grace of God, with patience so that not one minute is wasted that God gives you on this earth, no matter the adversity you are facing.  Do you want to love God more than the timing of the answers He gives to your prayers?  Are you willing to offer Him a patient heart for as long as He has you wait on His arrival?  “The coming of the Lord is near.”