Have you ever noticed how our lives could ofttimes be described as a perpetual series of see-saws—up and down, up and down, up and down. “I was up, but now I’m down”, or “I was down, but now I’m up”, “I was out, but now I’m in”. Notice that in nearly every case the pivot upon which all the ups and downs of our lives rest is that little word ‘but’. I know this sounds trite, but let me assure you, a simple little ‘but’ can be one of the most significant words in the English language. It’s the ‘buts’ in our lives that totally change our directions; not merely alter them, but change them by a whopping 180º!
We often use ‘buts’ to shift the blame for a misstep away from us. We are hoping that that simple little word can absolve us of any and all personal guilt. It’s that old ‘the dog ate my homework’ trick’. “I’m sorry I was late ‘but’ I got caught by a slow moving train”. In other words, ‘it was all that train’s fault; if that train had not blocked me I would have easily been on time. Or “I’m sorry I stepped on your, ‘but’ it was sticking out in the aisle.” In other words, “Don’t blame me. It’s all your fault! If your foot had not been sticking out in the aisle, I wouldn’t have stepped on it.” In effect we are saying that we are the victims, rather that the perpetrators.
Lawyers often use ‘buts’ in defense of their clients. As a matter of fact, nearly all successful lawyers have a litany of ‘buts’ in their bag of defenses—circumstances outside their client’s control which could ultimately lead to a ‘not guilty’ verdict. We’ve all heard them, “abused as a child”, or “my dad left us when I was two”, or “innocent by reason of insanity”, or “necessitated for self defense”, or “the way she was dressed said she wanted it”,or, or ……just to name a few. Once again, in each case, lawyers are obviously trying to paint their client as the victim rather than the perpetrator.
We use ‘buts’ to explain our station in life: “I thought we were happily married but then….” Or, “We tried to bring our child up right, but then…..” Or, “We were flying high—good job, fine home, fancy cars, extra money to run and play, but then….” Whoops! The see-saw has just changed our course in life. All our arrows were pointing up, but now all our arrows are pointing down. We had hit a serious road block— a road block that caused us to stop in our tracks, evaluate our options, alter our course, and move on. It should also be noted here that road blocks are not all bad! Road blocks can often steer us away from disaster; road blocks may actually be the disciplining hand of our loving Lord. In such cases, road blocks can actually be reason to rejoice! Rejoice? How’s that? How can we rejoice over our situation when all seems lost? Here’s a hint. In Proverbs 13:24 we read, “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them (NLT)”. We can rejoice that God loves so much that He is disciplining us, steering us back in the right direction.
Or visa-verse, the opposite can also often be true. All our arrows can be pointing down, “The roof leaks, the chimney leans and I ain’t got no money, ain’t got no job, and ain’t got no prospects of gittin’ one; poor pitiful me.” It’s prayer time—sincere prayer time, asking God to insert a “but then….” (Note: have you ever noticed how much more frequent and sincere our prayers are during times like these. And have you also noticed that such prayers are filled with mostly requests, and very few thank yous’?) Ah, but not to fret! Rather than enjoin a pity party, know that our loving Lord is able to turn all our arrows up just as easily as He can turn them down. The situation may appear to be impossible. But, happily, those are the times when God can cause us to land on a springboard. Once again, that’s the arena where God is at His best. It’s at times when we are at our wits end—when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, that we can be headed for a “but God” springboard. The see-saw may soon miraculously change directions. In Matthew 19:26 Jesus tells us “ “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (NKJV).” Did you notice that wonderful little phrase ‘but with God’?
Isn’t it amazing at how many see-saws in our lives rest on the pivot ‘but God’. As in the examples above, the ‘buts’ in our life become much more significant and powerful when immediately followed by God—‘but God’ (or some implication of a ‘but God’). We find literally hundreds of situations in the Scriptures where circumstances were headed in wrong directions, ‘but God’ stopped them in their tracks and introduced them to His chastening rod. Those sobering Scriptures should serve as warnings for us. When all things are seemingly going our way to the extent that we take our eyes off of Him, WATCH OUT!. We are headed headlong toward a dreaded ‘But God’. We too are certainly not exempt from His chastening rod. But, when we receive that disciplining rod of our Father, He is proving once again that He loves us. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2 NIV).”
However, we should rejoice that the opposite is also true. For example, the whole fifteenth chapter of Luke could be considered as the lost and found department of the Bible: a coin was lost but now is found, a sheep was lost but now is found, and a prodigal son was lost, but now is found. Likewise, our lives can be totally transformed when we encounter a ‘but God’. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how we could face trials that will surely come were it not for a ‘but God’. Without that brief little two-word phrase, we would have no hope in the world. Every imaginable ill circumstance in our lives can be negated when God inserts His all powerful ‘but God’ into the equation.
One of my favorite hymns of all time is ‘Love Lifted Me’. It was was written by James Rowe way back in the year 1912, yet it is still as fresh and pertinent today as it was over a hundred years ago.
I was sinking deep in sin, for from the peaceful shore;
Very deeply stained with sin, sinking to rise no more.
The master of the seas heard my despairing cry;
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I!
Words cannot express how much I rejoice in the fact that I too was once lost, but now am found, ‘I too was once blind, but now can see, I too was once headed for eternal torment, but God rescued me! No matter what our situations and circumstances may be, the insertion of a ‘but God’ can change the tide and the prevailing ill winds that are buffeting us. Once again, no matter whether all our arrows seem pointed up or down, I am reminded of that wonderful promise, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28, NLT).” Any or all our arrows may be pointed down and there seems to be no hope, but God is going to cause them to work together for good for those of us who love Him and have placed our total trust in Him.
Join me as I am trying to hold on to that promise with both hands and “Rejoice always!”