What Makes a Good "God Story"?

It was one of the ugliest hospital rooms I had ever seen. The finishings were a time warp back to the seventies. The room was drab, outdated, and uncomfortable. But due to construction in the “pregnancy complications” wing, this is where I landed for my bed rest.

In so many ways, it was not where I wanted to be.

Laying in a hospital bed on my side, scrolling through B movies while my husband was at work.

My baby wasn’t due for over eight weeks. The complications had begun on Monday, and for the middle of the week, I was on bed rest at home. But now it was Thursday, and I was there. In the gloomy, outdated hospital room, with my only company the swirling questions about the future.

My solitude was broken by the ring of the phone. I picked up to hear the voice of a well-meaning loved one, calling to remind me that God was in control and it would all turn out all right.

I hung up, turned over, and sighed.

I believed that God was good. I really did. I truly believed that no matter what was headed my way, He would bring me through.

But knowing that did not mean I felt it, not at that moment.

I was irritated that someone was trying to hurry me through to the other side. I needed to stay there for awhile, lingering in my sorrow and uncertainty.

One of the things I love about the Psalms is the permission they give to be in that place.

Psalm 10 begins with

Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? – Psalm 10:1

Yet, Psalm 10 does not stand in isolation. In fact, the Greek translation of the Old Testament puts Psalm 9 and 10 together as one Psalm. The two together have some repeating themes and the loose structure of an acrostic poem.

Scholars disagree about whether or not these two were at one time one Psalm, but they do agree that at least they are related.

Yet, the two could not begin more differently. Psalm 9 begins with

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. – Psalm 9:1-2

Psalm 10 has the raw honesty of someone frustrated with God in the midst of difficulty. Psalm 9 has the faith that God brings us through difficulty and calls us to sing His praises.

Something inside us wants to separate these two things, the questioning and the praising. But they are often simultaneous.

It is possible to believe that life sucks and God is good at the same time. We do not need to rush through the pain to demonstrate that we have faith.

Because Psalm 9 also gives us a truth that is true hope in the midst of any circumstance.

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. – Psalm 9:10

The Lord will not forsake us.

When we call on His name to yell, complain, vent, throw a fit, cry, and question, the Lord will not forsake us.

When we call on His name to praise, thank, rejoice, and trust, the Lord will not forsake us.

God is trustworthy. We can demonstrate our true feelings without fear.

I once heard a woman talk about the experience of losing her daughter in a tragic car accident at age seven. She said, “I knew that if God was really God, His chest was big enough for me to pound on.”

In difficult times, I picture us getting close enough to pound on God’s chest, so that He can wrap His arms around us in love.

And all this ties back into the beginning of Psalm 9.

As people of faith, it is our job to recount the deeds of God. To tell stories of how He has been faithful, how He has redeemed, and how He has not forsaken. This includes stories of when we have been angry or questioned and the Lord has stood by our side.

I am grateful, so grateful, that my son’s birth story became one of blessing. The Lord was with us in a mighty way. It is a story of one of God’s wonderful deeds.

But God’s other wonderful deed was earlier. And it is a story worth telling, too. A story of how God did not leave me when I was in that hospital room, surrounded by doubt and fear.

God was in the happy ending. God was also in the messy middle. He did not forsake me.