Tuesday, October 11, 2011

He withholds no vague good etheral thing from us

BC: One of my favorite songs on the album is “Open Hands”. What’s the story behind this song?

Groves: I wrote this song with Alley Rogers who’s a great song writer out of Nashville and I was talking to her about the verse – you know it says in Psalm ‘He withholds no good things from those who love Him’ and I said, you know, that verse is hard for me to process. I know that its true in my own life yet its hard for me to process that He withholds no good thing.

And she had just been reading this devotional by Charles Spurgeon [that] says basically, how can this be true? How can this psalm be true when we know amazing men and women of God who struggle with health and finances and different troubles, and different troubles beset them? They have a lot of troubles. So how can we say that God withholds no good thing?

And he concludes, he says, we can only assume then that health and wealth are not the good things of God. The good things of God are peace of conscience and the joy of His holy spirit and the blessed assurance of His presence. These are the good things of God. And what we think are good things are like, hey, I want money, I wanna feel good and what Charles Spurgeon is saying is: these aren’t the good things of God. The good things of God, those things are for us.

We will get sick, we will have difficulty, we’ll have times like Paul said, we’ll have times of wealth and we’ll have times of poverty and we need to be content in both of those times.

What God offers us is peace that surpasses all understanding, the joy of His Holy Spirit, and the promise of His presence and I love that. I mean, I can say without hesitating that He withholds no good things from me if those are the good things of God.

So, in this song, I’m talking about, these are the things I’m grateful for. I’m grateful that when I did have trouble He was with me and when I was sick, I had peace, that when I did have a financial difficulty, I knew He was present and that He was working in my life. So, this song is acknowledging that He withholds no good thing from me and that doesn’t mean stuff. That means the true good things of God.

From an interview with Christian singer/songerwriter Sara Groves, on her upcoming release "Invisible Empires."

I put in bold the parts I found most interesting in this quote. It starts out saying that she has seen some people go through incredible hardships in terms of health and finances. Now, when I read that, I was thinking of big health things, like cancer or Alzheimer's. Financial difficulties where someone is about to lose his/her house, or can't support his/her family.

She admits that she struggles with reconciling a God who withholds no good thing with the struggles she sees. Yet, as she gets deeper into her answer, Sara seems to fall back on a default Christian response, where the implication is that these people are asking out of selfish desires -- such as saying, "I want money" or "I want to feel good." Or in her personal examples, such as when she was sick or had a financial difficulty.

I would think that for those who do suffer from a debilitating illness, their prayers go far, far behind "I want to feel good." These people are in pain. They're terrified. They're not able to live life as they could before.

Same with those who have no jobs, or who are about to lose their houses -- this goes so far beyond some prayer of "I want money." Again, there is terror, panic, possibly a feeling of hopelessness ...

And Sara downplays all of that in her response, trivializing the suffering. It's fascinating, really. You can basically see how she does still struggle with the reconciliation of a good God to said suffering, because she's shying away from a true reconciliation in her answer. It's like she's admitting on a subconscious level that any God who is defined as 'good' would not withhold healing for cancer, or money so people can afford food, and so she's saying, "Well, of course God is going to withhold if you say "I want money" or "I want to feel good because I'm sick." It's like she can't bring herself to say, "Well, of course God will withhold an alleviating of a debilitating , because that's not the good thing of God."

If said that way, it doesn't paint God in a good light.


... Zoe ~ said...

During the worst of my worst days with inflammatory bowel disease, my prayers went way beyond "I want to feel good." All I wanted was a millisecond of pain relief. Just one moment of no pain. It's all I asked for. People who suffer usually know their pain isn't going to end totally. They usually just want a bit of relief once in awhile. As a Christian back then I remember thinking, 'Oh well, Jesus suffered more than me and He won't give me any more than I can bear.' It's quite likely that underneath it all I even felt guilty for asking Jesus for just a moment of relief. Just let me catch my breath so I can bury my head in this pillow and get ready to scream into this pillow again so my kids won't hear me in my agony. "Terrified" is a good word.

OneSmallStep said...


Then clearly, relief for your pain wasn't a good thing for you, as God didn't deliver it. /sarcasm.

... Zoe ~ said...

Indeed OSS. Indeed. Or as many people use to tell me: "You must be doing a great work for Christ to have Satan attack you like this."

Anonymous said...

I've'bn going through a great deal of suffering and - not my words but others watching me go thru -
have noted that it was Job-like.
As I rebelled against it, the only time things let up was when I focused on God.
And when I did that, I found paths that were divinely set.
The pain wasn't/isn't about relief, peace, that one good thing
(so easily delivered if God wanted to grant it to me) I was waiting for.
The pain was to redirect my actions and goals. I have since bought into that path and started a new company (people are calling it ministry...who knows?). So, for me,
it finally seems clear that's why I am where I am. It has taken so so long to get to this point.
Perhaps there are clues about your next God-directed task -
in your heart, in the messages you receive thru a sermon or a stranger, through a calamity.
Most people aren't visited by the Archangel Gabriel.

And while not minimizing your pain - it's real for you, it hurts for you and it affects your individual person, role and goals - do to try to remember (espec. for we Americans)
Hebrews 12:4.
May God continue to bless you & give you the strength until His purpose is revealed.