Garth Brooks was performing in Oklahoma City when he noticed a commotion in the crowd: a man had just proposed to his fiancée. Brooks stopped the concert to ask their names. Then he told them that he and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, would pay for their honeymoon if they went to Hawaii. I hope you’ll watch the video—it’s a great moment that defines grace and joy.
Let’s think about Brooks’s offer: he would pay, but only for Hawaii. Did this make him gracious or demanding? He gave the couple no explanation for insisting that they go to Hawaii. They could accept his generosity, or they could question his motives.
But they could not do both.
When our challenges are growing and our prayers seem unanswered, it is easier to question our Father’s providence than to trust his provision. In Psalm 22, David cries to the Lord, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v. 1). But note his affirmation just two verses later: “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (v. 3).
In Habakkuk 3, the nation is in financial crisis, but see how the prophet responds: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (vv. 17–18).
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will'” (Matthew 26:39, NIV).
What “cup” are you facing today? Consider a parable from Alister McGrath’s The Sunnier Side of Doubt:
Imagine you are a traveler in medieval England. You decide to travel to Oxford from the nearby village of Witney. Darkness falls as you near Oxford so that you cannot see the landscape around you. You decide to keep going along the road despite the darkness. All you can see is the road ahead of you, which you know to have been signposted to Oxford. At times there are things about that road that puzzle you. The road may turn abruptly to the left at one point. Why, you wonder. At another point, it becomes very muddy. Again, you wonder why. But you don’t know. You can’t see the full picture. You’re in the dark.
Of course, when dawn breaks you see the landscape fully illuminated. Then the real state of things becomes apparent. You might suddenly notice that the road swerves to the left to avoid an open mineshaft, invisible to you in the dark. You might see that at one point the road passes close to a raging torrent, which might have swept you away if the road had not led you away from it—as it turned out, all that happened was that your feet got muddy. Although you could not understand what was happening at the time, you subsequently realize that the road led you to safety in the darkness through a series of dangers. Your initial bewilderment turns to relief.
It is always too soon to give up on God.