Things God Doesn’t Promise

“Everything will work out.”

Is that so.

I’m sitting in my bedroom, putting some finishing touches on a few different pieces I’ve been writing, and the advice of others is rattling in my brain like a loose screw in a metal box.

“God has the perfect person for you.”

“One day, you’ll look back on this and be grateful.”

“Just give it time.”

I’ve noticed this trait lately, in myself and others: when other words fail, we do ourselves and God a disservice by taking on his role of divine healer, offering nice-sounding promises that he never made.

Oh, we do so nobly. And, to our thinking, it may even make sense. The Bible doesn’t ever say that “everything is going to work out.” Not really. But sort of seems like the sort of thing it would say. Should say. It’ d be nice if it did, anyhow.

So, we put a little spin to ease the pain.

Ours can be a sentimental faith, and it is often difficult to sort out what is true and what only sounds true. And we sell God short when we try to supplement our mighty salvation with gilded platitudes.

There’s no sense in getting God off the hook. Perhaps you will never get married. Many people do, but it is not something that God guarantees. And who knows what in life we will look back on with gratitude and what we will look back on in regret?

And as far as everything working out goes, well, we all know better.

Fortunately, it is not hard to tell fake promises from real ones. Like wax fruit, fake promises lack the intangible grit of authenticity. “God will give you the perfect girl someday” doesn’t have the punch of “the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give” (John 14:27). And “everything will work out” sounds juvenile and saccharine next to “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Admittedly, the real promises require a little more spine than the fake ones. But that’s what I mean by “grit.”

So let us stop bolstering the Gospel with our own good intentions. Any attempt to make God better is doomed to bitter results. However much we might wish our God was more like a divine sympathy card, we do well to remember that he is better than our imagination. He is real. And he is so good.

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17 Comments

  1. I like “Perhaps you will never get married.” This is similar to you can’t force someone to behave like a grown adult in a relationship and be respectful, faithful and honest.
    The hardest thing for me sometimes is to understand not just the why of something you feel God has dealt you but that it may not have the outcome you want. Some days I am better at this than most. Thank you for your insight that makes it a little clearer today.

    Reply
  2. I love this, Tyler. So well said – and spot on.

    Reply
  3. Rebecka

     /  June 17, 2013

    Very true and beautifully put. I especially love the last paragraph.

    Reply
  4. Reblogged this on My Recipe for Joy and commented:
    Tyler couldn’t have done a better job with this message! He’s truly a gifted writer, who leaves it all on the page. Writers like him are a blessing to us all. And he’s right…God doesn’t promise us it will work out the way we want, He just promises He’ll be with us every step of the way. And that has to be enough. Thanks Tyler!!

    Reply
  5. Spoke right to my heart…you have a beautiful gift for speaking the truth. Hope you are well! 😉

    Reply
  6. Well said…and a bit uncomfortable, too. Definitely hit home for me, especially right now. Sometimes things just won’t work out because they’re not meant to. Deep breath. And that’s ok. Enjoying your blog! Keep up the great posts.

    Reply
  7. I get what you’re trying to say in this post but God has generic (and specific) good promises locked up in scripture that can only be revealed in the ‘heat of the moment’ by the Holy Spirit. The bible might not ‘literally’ say ‘everything would work out beautifully’ but God’s Spirit can whisper to your heart ‘everything would work out . . .in fact GREAT’.

    By the way, who on earth or reading this blog post doesn’t want everything sad to come untrue? Who doesn’t want everything to work out? To want everything to work out fine is a good desire and I believe it’s God given to hope for the best.

    Sometimes life seems hard but we can thrive where we were bound to strive. In that moment to choose to strive is like putting God and all his ability in a box.

    Reply
    • Well, if God tells you everything will work out, I certainly won’t be the one to tell you otherwise. I would still maintain the Bible makes no such general promise, so I’m only cautioning against saying these things as a general truism. Naturally, I would like for everything to work out, and I believe that is a lovely desire, (and I believe, in an eternal sense, all things are bound for glory—I’m writing in purely the temporal sense here) but my wanting everything to work out doesn’t make it true.

      Reply
  8. Just found your blog through Relevant, so glad I did! “Fortunately, it is not hard to tell fake promises from real ones. Like wax fruit, fake promises lack the intangible grit of authenticity.” So so good. Keep it up!

    Reply
  9. Kim How?

     /  June 20, 2013

    Preach, Huckabee.

    Reply
  10. David Waldy

     /  June 20, 2013

    I greatly admire your response to this poignant topic that many confuse and manipulate for there own misguided reassurance. This is a subject I have contemplated for years and applaud such noble efforts. My only beef is the unquestionable reality that at the “End of it all”, the sons and daughters of God win. Believers win. Pardon my Rob Bell reference, but ‘Love wins’…

    By default, wouldn’t this mean that one day we will really be able to say ‘Everything did work out’…? Sure it may not work out the way each person desires or hopes… but in a sense, it really does work itself out. Just not necessarily in absolute favor of a particular perspective. This leads us to the obvious feelings of ambiguity to the phrase “everything will work out” brought to the table… Oh the joys of relativity…

    I don’t mean to be facetious. But we can dissect this to the core. “Everything” in relation to time (past, present, and future) WILL work out. This assuming one holds the Christian paradigm… (I don’t mean to step on toes, I am simply responding in light of the author’s belief system, which I understand incurs much bias… which I happen to agree with) Darkness will fall. Light will rule. and “Everything” will work out.

    – All that said, I suppose that your purposes in addressing the above question were not for flighty semantics. I believe you are absolutely correct that many in the Christian faith impart a false sense of hope for various issues that all of us face. You are absolutely right about the comments that we slew around in faulty, blind, reassurance.

    However, Romans 8:28 clearly teaches us that “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – In the midst of misguided hope, we have to give people a real hope. The real hope. Jesus. He said very specifically all throughout his public ministry that we would be persecuted, hated, mocked, and yes, that we would suffer for his name’s sake. I don’t know about you, but the closest thing to suffering I’ve thus far experienced is maxed out at getting my hand burnt this morning by my toaster oven. Our western culture knows nothing of suffering. We call a break up, or a broken down car, or a job loss, or the flu, SUFFERING?!… It disgusts me to even contemplate that truth…

    How then does it just ‘work out’… well you can see it right there. Every day. Every situation. Every encounter. Every tear. Every smile… Big Papa upstairs keeps His word. And the Holy Spirit says “All things” “For good”. Obviously, Father knows best… and eating a pound of candy may look good, but it’s not ‘good’. And He knows this. Which is why when we don’t get the candy, we say it’s bad or it’s just a season of suffering… and then we become philosophers who say that “Everything DOES NOT work out” because it didn’t go how we wanted… When in reality (behind the scenes) GOD worked it for good… we just have flawed perspective. Simply stated: What we want is not always good.

    Let ease your eyes by closing… That hope. The hope of glory in Jesus. That is what helps us know that “Everything will work out”… Granted, history and Scripture show us that mankind will forever plan, but it is the Lord who orders his steps and gives him breath. Funny thing is, God gets blamed for most of what the dark conjures up, and the enemy gets away with incessant evil that many believe to be the ‘back hand’ of God. All while the devil seems to get credit when the Father is trying us… Temptation and Trial, oddly enough, come hand in hand. God doesn’t tempt, he tries with fire. Satan doesn’t try, he tempts with sin. All this to say… ‘Nothing will work out’ exactly like you thought. But ‘Everything will work out’ exactly how He did..

    Thanks, for the probing post. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I appreciate you opening this up and honorably submit this response IMHO.
    Blessings,

    Reply
  11. mmstroet

     /  June 23, 2013

    Bro, that sentence: “Any attempt to make God better is doomed to bitter results.” is g.o.l.d.e.n. Thanks. Gonna have to go write that somewhere I can see it everyday.

    My struggle right now: I wanna see fruits come out of this earth I’m digging into every day. I’m tired, easily discouraged by the way the rocks pop up and kill my seeds and the sun just keeps on frying them to crisps. Psalm 128 says we’ll get to eat the fruits of our labor, but is not super specific on when. And, when I think about it, I’m dreaming of growing pineapples with sour weeny little blueberries in my hand. I’m treating God like my grandfather, for whom I had to work all waking hours to please. God’s not a bigger better grandpappy, he’s God. He doesn’t need my pineapples, he needs my love and trust so he can grow some giant alien fruit I could never even dream up, let alone SEE.

    And in the realm of theology, well, let’s just say me + nasty questions = lots of sneaky rewrites in which Morielle tries to make the Bible a little more flattering to her spiritual buddy. Not a God-honoring formula.

    Thanks man, for this post. If you only knew the thoughts that have passed through my mind today…. you’d be amazed to see how much I needed it.

    Reply
    • Agreed, Morielle. I feel a good rule of thumb is that there is nothing we can do to make the Good News better than it actually is. Any time we actually try to edit the Gospel to make it sound better, we’re actually ruining part of it. If there’s a part of the Good News that seems not good, or like it could be better, either our understanding of it is off, or our understanding of what “good” is is off.

      I’m very glad this is something you needed to hear!

      Reply
  12. Dear Tyler, your blog posts are immensely beautiful and important, so thank you.

    Reply

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