In “God, I Don’t Understand,” Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church reminds us that, even when we don’t see it, God is still working in our lives.
Often, the first impulse when God really
shows up in your life is fear, and it is
only in pushing through the fear that you find
the love of God on the other side of your fear.
“What’s this all about?” But the angel said to
her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor
with God. And I have an assignment for you.
Because you have found favor with God, you will
be with child and give birth to a son, and you are
to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and
will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord
God will give him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob
forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Watch Mary’s response. “Well, praise the
Lord, and glory to God in the highest,
and peace on earth, and good will to men on
whom his favor rests. Your words to me are
like drops of gold assurance in a heart that…”
No. The first thing out of her mouth was, “How?
I know how pregnancy works. How am I pregnant?
I promise, God, Joseph and I have been
keeping it clean. I promise, God, we have not
been in the back seat of a ‘Camellac.’ How?”
Her first instinct is not, “Yes!” It’s, “How?”
That is always the response when God really
knocks. “How? How can I really be forgiven by
someone who died on a cross before I was ever
born? How can somebody else’s death really affect
my life? How?” That’s a good starting place.
“How can you really use me? Look at me. I’m
nobody. I’m nothing. How? How can I move forward
after this? How can I believe that I still will
see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the
living? How? How? How?” The greatest gifts God
ever gives are on the other side of your how.
On the other side of your questions, on
the other side of your “I don’t get it,”
on the other side of your “I don’t
understand,” on the other side of “Who,
me?” on the other side of, “What, now?” on the
other side of “Why this?” That’s where the gift
is. “And you shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.”
God wrapped his Son in something that looked
so common you would walk by it if you weren’t
looking for it, because the greatest
gifts God gives are wrapped in doubt.
The promise is wrapped in doubt for a reason.
If he gave you proof you wouldn’t need faith,
so he hides it. He hides his promise
in the darkness to protect you.
This will not make sense in an
Instagram generation, but sometimes God
needs to work on the big picture
of your life in the darkroom
to let it develop. Doubt is where faith develops.
Doubt is where faith matures. Doubt is where
faith gets hardened past Christian clichés
that fit on a bumper sticker or Pinterest.
Let it develop. “Let patience
have its perfect work in you,
that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking nothing.” It’s the darkroom.
In fact, Isaiah, who was quoted to Joseph,
also said in Isaiah 9:1, “Nevertheless,
there will be no more gloom…” I want to write
a song one day called “Nevertheless.” It’s one
of my favorite Bible words. It means it
looks one way but it’s really another.
It means give it time and let it
unfold; God is up to something.
It means the verdict is already submitted;
just give the evidence time. You will see it.
Nevertheless, no matter what you see right
now. It means the ruling on the field can
be overturned at any time. It means
there is a review booth called heaven.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more
gloom for those who were in distress.
In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali, but in the future
he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles,
by the Way of the Sea, along the Jordan…”
I need to insert this, because
Galilee means valley of shade.
Now watch what happens in the darkest valley.
The prophet says, “The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light.” I
was confused at this point,
because I thought he was talking about
something that would happen 700 years later.
The prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years before
the birth of Christ, but now he is speaking about
something that is yet to be as if it already
happened. This is called the prophetic perfect.
You see it often in Scripture. It’s when God, who
stands outside of time, knows exactly what you’re
going through, how long you’re going to go through
it, and what he’s going to do on the other side.
It’s the God who spoke “Let there be light,” and
molecules and particles rearranged themselves
to spread out into the universe to darken
every corner of this globe. My faith gives me
the ability to stand in the darkest valley,
believing that the light has already come,
if I let it develop. Faith is developed
in doubt. Faith always develops in doubt.
Faith learns to depend on God because of doubt.
If you never doubted God, you would be him.
Before long, you would start worshiping
yourself and singing, “How great thou art” in
your full-length mirror. God is not going to allow
you to become so arrogant you never have doubts.
If he removed the doubt he
would remove the need for him,
for you to know that he is God and
you are not. That’s why you doubt.
There are benefits to the doubt. There’s a benefit
to having to wrestle with God and wrestle with
where you are and wrestle with yourself and
wrestle like Jacob did. That’s where you find
the revelation of the goodness of God: not in
your self-confidence but in your self-doubt.
Mary said, “How will this be? I am a
virgin.” The angel said, “The power of
the Most High will overshadow you, but you must
make the decision to believe God in the face of
evidence that seems to contradict his promise,
to believe God that every dead end is a
doorway if you decide to go through it.”
There is someone here who is standing at a
doorway today called doubt, and if you will
walk through it and make the decision to
trust God in this situation you will find
on the other side a greater glory revealed to you
than you have ever known, but if you stop here,
if you stop with “How?” and “Why?” and “When?”
and “What?” if you wait until you have all the
evidence to trust God, you will never take Mary
home, and you will never see the promise of God
come to pass. All of the greatest faith is
on the other side of your deepest doubt.