Cynthia Mendenhall: “But God”
I overheard a man tell my brother, “You may think you know me, but I am not anything close to the man you knew twelve years ago.”
My brother responded, “That’s cool!” Then they both laughed and did one of those awkward manly men embraces.
Another conversation drew me away, but I was aware of several men in that small circle repeating the term “but God.”
Only two words, six letters total, but what an incredible idea and hope they offer us. This phrase appears forty-five times in the Bible, so I think we could call it a recurring theme. Repetition is a great teaching strategy, so we should take notice.
One of the more recognized instances of this short phrase is when Joseph tells his brothers “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT).
If we take a quick glance at our pasts, we may be tempted to focus on the trials, the struggles, and the losses we’ve encountered. However, after some deeper reflection, most of those seemingly negative experiences may be redeemed by adding the rest of the story. The ending of those stories becomes our new beginning. God intervened, showing mercy, and because of this, He gives us a “but God” phrase that changes the story.
Can we agree, the biggest “but God” turnaround is Paul’s recounting of the crucifixion?
They took Him [Jesus] down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead!~Acts 13:29b-30 NLT
This one “but God” incident changed everything.
Jesus was dead; we were dead in our sins.
He rose from the dead; we rose from the death of our sins.
That single “but God” incident changes our attitude, our behavior, and our focus. It gives us a fresh perspective and fills our dreary days and dire circumstances with hope. We can live free of worry and concern and be perched on tiptoes in anticipation of our next “but God” moment.
My brother later told me his friend shared with the group how he had been bound in anger, living for himself, and miserable enough to make everyone around him miserable. Then God interrupted his story, and everything changed. He is now a pastor who pours into others, who worships and honors his God, and who gives up a week of pay in the fall to serve on a mission project that assists those who live in devastated areas of our country.
Your history may include a lengthy list of failures. People may have given up on you, and Satan will tell you to give up on yourself, saying, “You’re not worth saving.” He’s not turned off by your darkness or threatened by your despair. You need not be embarrassed by the chaos of your life or overwhelmed by your loneliness. Even so, God is still eager to interrupt your story and change it. In fact, He is willing to transform your story and you in spectacular ways! But God!
When you add “BUT GOD” to your story, it changes your whole story so much that you may one day be overheard telling an old acquaintance—someone who knew you back then—that they really don’t know you at all and then sharing an awkward manly-man embrace.
When was the last time you shared your “but God” story with others?
Father God, Thank You for the grace and mercy You have poured over my life and for not abandoning me at my worst. Thank You for stepping in and changing everything for good and for Your glory and adding “but God” to my life’s story.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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