If you grew up in church you know this fun little chant. The pastor says, “God is good all the time,” and the congregation replies, “All the time God is good.”
I never challenged this statement. Not until this past summer.
Many of you know, on May 19, 2019, I was deported from London, England after months of prepping, planning, praying, and support raising money to be there all summer long and share the gospel. I stood back and watched as three months of my life seemed to wash down the drain in one moment. The image of the customs officials shaking their heads and bearing the bad news to my team and I in the Heathrow Detention Center will forever be burned in my memory.
“How did this happen?”
“What was the detention center like?”
“Is England a closed country?”
(The short answer is that we did not do anything illegal, and no, England is not a closed country. It was determined by UK customs officials that our team did not have the right paperwork/visas and ultimately, England reserves the right to refuse anyone into their country).
Questions from family members and friends ensued for weeks on end, and I found my usually extroverted self wanting to hide in my childhood bedroom and never emerge. People wanted answers to these questions, but what they didn’t know was that I was left with thousands of questions of my own.
“Where was God in this midst of this?”
“Didn’t he want us to go to London this summer? Or did we hear Him wrong?”
And deeper, darker, shameful ones that emerged like:
“If this is what laying my life down for Jesus looks like, is this really what I signed up for the rest of my life?”
“Is God actually good all of the time?”
“This is a BASIC truth of Christian faith. How can I teach five year olds every week that God is good, and just now realize that I haven’t been believing it for myself? This is so embarrassing. Who do I talk to about this?”
“How do I truly believe that God is good, for no other reason than that it is who He is? I know in my head it’s His nature, but I don’t know it deep down in my gut… if that makes sense. How do I just make myself believe that?”
I had walked through disappointment with God before, but grief and trauma like this was completely new territory to me and I had NO idea how to walk through trauma in a healthy way. I believed that God was good in general, I even believed in His goodness toward other people, but this had unearthed that I didn’t believe it for myself, in my OWN life. This began a deep personal journey of asking God to reveal new things to me, to help me believe He truly is who He says He is, and scouring over Scripture looking for answers for myself. I also talked openly with a few close trusted friends about what I was going through so that they could be in the loop and pray for me. My one piece of advice when you are walking through a dark time is to not let satan allow you to keep things in the dark. Always bring things to the light and invite others in, no matter how scary or embarrassing it may seem!
Another piece of advice I have is to not compare your journey to anyone else. It was almost ironic to me, hearing some of my other teammates describe the interrogation process and the Heathrow Detention Center. For some people on our team it was extremely disappointing but did not shake their faith, and for others (like me) it was an earth shattering experience that shook them to their core. Everyone processes things differently and deals with grief and trauma differently. It is important to listen to the Holy Spirit inside of yourself and do what you need to in order to heal fully and completely from trauma.
Through this process I learned that grief comes in layers like an onion, and that it is okay when a new layer starts to peel back unexpectedly. If you followed along with my journey at all this summer, you know that my story did not end in the Heathrow Detention Center. I and a couple other of my teammates actually ended up re-routing to Vancouver, Canada and ministering to people there.
It was in Canada that I began to finally get some answers to my questions. I distinctly remember one day during my time with God that I got out my Bible, my journal, and pulled up good ole’ Google. I typed into the search engine, “Every time in the Bible that God followed through on His promises.” I opened my journal and I began to write down every verse that popped up.
Okay, He says here in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” He says in Isaiah 40:29 that, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” He says in Psalm 103:2-5, “Praise the Lord, my soul and forget not all His benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.”
The list went on and on. I did this for days on end. I would pray and ask God to reveal to me why He was good all the time and then write down verses that proved His goodness and faithfulness to His people. What I found was that He never, ever- not even ONCE throughout all of history, went back on His word. When He said He would do something for His people, He did it. When I still had trouble believing He was good toward me, I would write out all the ways God had proved His goodness in my life. And more than anything, I just plain practiced my faith muscle. That poor guy was pretty weak, and I needed to work to make him strong.
Unfortunately, I cannot make you believe that God is good, any more than I can make you believe that God is real. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Only you get to determine what you are going to believe in, no one else can do it for you. But that is the beautiful thing about life: free will. You get to choose what you put your hope and trust in. Following Jesus is a journey that He doesn’t force anyone to go on. It is not always easy, but it is always an adventure.
I can confidently say that because of what happened to me this past summer, I finally believe in my head, my heart, AND in my gut that God is good. No amount of chanting is what made me believe this. The majority of this was based on my own experience and discovery. I would encourage you to go on your own journey of self-discovery. Don’t be afraid to ask God and those you trust the hard questions. Delve deep into the Bible on your own. I found one thing out this past summer that cannot ever be taken away from me. I discovered that God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.