In the summer of 1994, I developed a fear of flying. I know exactly when it was and what caused it. I was with a group flying in from a missions project to Slovakia, and we flew into the Charlotte, NC airport on US Air exactly 23 hours after one of their planes had crashed there killing 32 people. The fact that I flew in on the identical airline to the identical airport less than 24 hours after the identical time freaked me out a little. Then I made the mistake of reading the stories about it in the Charlotte newspaper over the next week as I stayed with my parents. The articles every day told the stories of the individuals who died and made the crash much more personal. Thus my fear of flying began.
Because I was working with a missions organization, there were plenty of times when I had to fly or great opportunities that required flying. I decided that I feared disobeying God more than I feared flying, so I refused to say “no” to anything He called me to do even if it involved an airplane. But it didn’t mean I didn’t have a panic attack now and then.
Eventually, I developed a little mantra to get me through a flight. It went like this: “God is sovereign and God is good.” I decided that God is sovereign and so He was in control of the plane and whether it crashed or not. And He is good and so if He chose to take me to heaven in a plane crash, it must be what He deemed to be good. It’s not really the way I want to go to be with Him, but if it happened that way, it would be good because He declared it to be good. It may have been a morbid thought process, but it was rooted in good theology and so it got me through flights.
It wasn’t too long before I realized that my mantra was helpful for all kinds of challenges in life, not just plane flights. I began to cling to God’s goodness and the truths that He has a good plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11), that He gives good gifts (Matthew 7:7-11), and that He withholds no good thing from those who seek Him and walk uprightly (Psalm 34:10, 84:11). The main area where I applied this was my singleness. I didn’t get married until I was 44 years old and, honestly, it was often difficult to wait and trust the Lord with my dreams and the desires of my heart. But I chose to believe that He is sovereign and good. I clung to the promise that He would withhold no good thing from me and reasoned that if marriage was a good thing for me today, then I would have it. Of course marriage is a good thing. But if I was still single, then it must not have been a good thing for me that day.
Just because I am married now, it doesn’t mean that I don’t still need my mantra. Recently some incredibly difficult things happened that have changed my whole ministry and trajectory. They are confusing and painful and leave me wondering why God would have this happen. But I kept going back to His sovereignty and goodness. In His perfect wisdom, He allowed it to happen, and His good plan for me is not over yet. I just have the adventure of watching it unfold!
In the summer of 2001, I was reading a book given to me by my boss called When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn James. Chapter 3 is an incredible explanation of my mantra and actually brought me to tears as I read it the first time. I wish I could quote all of it, but here are a couple of sentences that resonated deeply with me:
“His plan for you and for me always remains intact, always is purposeful, always proceeds at the rate he intended, always remains a priority with him.” (pg 78)
“The promise of God’s glory is the guarantee that no story will put God to shame; they all will only add to the mounting evidence of His great goodness.” (pg 79)
I really believe that. I really believe that His path for my life provides “evidence of His great goodness.” Of course, I don’t always feel like that. But I believe it and so when life is hard, I start looking for the evidence of His goodness because it is there. It is. For example, when I was single, He prompted me one morning to do this, and the goodness I focused on were all the things He had done so that I got to enjoy being Aunt Ali to my sister’s two sons.
- I live just a few hours from them so I get to see them often.
- I have a good relationship with my sister.
- I have a great brother-in-law who says “yes” when one of the boys asks if “Aunt Ali can spend the night at our house”.
- They included me in their family beach vacation for 7 years in a row. I was able to experience a family vacation without a family.
That is just one small example but a significant one in my life. Where is His goodness evident in your life? Thank Him for it and worship Him as your sovereign and good Heavenly Father.