You know that feeling when something bad happens to someone you love, but you don’t know the right thing to say? I’m willing to bet that, on the very worst day of someone’s life, the right thing to say has never been, “Yeah, but did you know butterflies taste with their feet?”
Just because it’s true doesn’t mean that it’s helpful. If you’ve ever been tempted to tell someone, “God doesn’t make mistakes”, just stop for a minute and consider the distinction.
Maybe God doesn’t make mistakes, but I do. Worse, I sin. A lot. Sin really does break stuff. God might not mess up, but that doesn’t change the fact that my mouth got me in trouble again. It doesn’t fix broken marriages. Sin still destroys. Adam’s did too. Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12)” It all mixes together into such a mess that sometimes I can’t even see where Adam’s sin ends and mine begins. It’s just…broken. God doesn’t make mistakes. So what?
Saying “God doesn’t make mistakes” implies that everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is the same world God called good. We broke it. It hurts now. Saying “God doesn’t make mistakes” is like saying the only thing wrong here is your attitude. Look around. A mother shouldn’t have to bury her child. Every Children’s Hospital stands as a bitter monument to the fact that things are absolutely not the way they’re supposed to be.
Jesus doesn’t think so either. Open your bible, read John 11, and see Him weep over the tomb of His friend Lazarus. If God never makes mistakes, and this world is enough to make Jesus weep, then you’re allowed to be upset with things too. That’s faith.
Faith doesn’t limit itself to things which are seen. Faith isn’t content to try to mold God into this mess and call it good. Faith dares to hope for what God actually promised in His word, and then gets upset when it’s not apparent. Faith complains. Faith laments.
Read the Psalms. A great deal of them hymns sung over the fact that that things don’t look like God said they would.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)
Those words would be awfully depressing if Jesus didn’t speak them too. The world is so painful, it’s inhabitants so sinful, that David wonders whether or not God abandoned us. Yet God put Himself right in the middle of a Psalm of Lament for David, for you, and for the very worst day of your life. He came down from heaven, took on human flesh and human sin, and bore all of that sin and pain and weakness all the way to the cross, where He echoed David’s lament even as He answered His prayer.
Things aren’t the way that they’re supposed to be, so God had to fix them. God doesn’t make mistakes, but more importantly, He doesn’t avoid them either. He puts Himself right in the mess. He bears sin. He forgives Adam’s sin that brought death, and your sin too. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).” A mother shouldn’t have to bury her son, but Mary laid to rest her Son, our Lord. She had to. It is finished. God has answered every prayer of lament, every cry frustrated with the pain of this world, and every shameful utterance with a cross that still stands on our very worst day. Jesus died for you, that you would live.
This cross is proof that God has not forsaken us. It is the gift that sustains us in this age unto the age to come. It is the sacrifice that has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. This is most certainly yours.
This cross changes how we talk to each other on those worst days. The cross gives us something true, but more importantly, something helpful to say. Things are not OK. Christ is still crucified. It is still finished. He is still risen. Find your peace in Him and in what He has already done for you. Know that gift is yours even now, as surely as you wear it in baptism. Christ will never forsake you. He cannot. God doesn’t avoid mistakes.