Redefining Good: A Primer

This week’s thoughts are pointing me in the direction of what we value, the things we want, the things we hope for, the things we get and how we view this dynamic, whether in Standard Definition or High Definition.  The concept is an extension of a note I posted on Facebook about two and a half years ago.  I am reposting it here as something of an introduction to what’s been swirling in my mind this week.  As noted before, the lack of capitalization was not entirely a stylistic choice, but a simple matter of poor fine motor skills because of nerve damage.  Consider this a bonus post, as I will continue with my scheduled posting this weekend.  Enjoy.

last week Anya and i went to a special get-together at our church to mark the end of the “24 Hours of Prayer” session that anya had participated in. i had been having a shitty week at that point, and decided to come along. i’m uncomfortable praying with others because i have difficulty turning thoughts into spoken words. i intended to just sit on the side by myself. as things got under way, however, i was unnerved to learn that the focus of this service was “corporate prayer”, and the idea was to get in groups of 5-6 and pray together.

my group consisted of Anya and myself, our friend Jane, an older couple, and Dan, the teaching pastor of the church. as we shuffled in the pews to face each other better, Dan asked if anyone would like prayer. anya looked at me expectantly. she knew i had been having a shitty few days and gave me a nudge as if to say, “you better ask for prayer, you could use it.” i had two thoughts at that point: 1) that’s the last time i share anything with anya, and 2) she’s probably right. i sat there for a few moments, hoping someone else would speak up.


“i’ll have some.” i finally said, trying not to sound too reluctant.
“you’re lucky,” said Dan. he joined the church only a couple of months ago. he’s got a good sense of humor and his frank honesty cracks me up. “we’re handing it out free tonight. how can we pray for you?”

i let anya give a summary of everything since the car-accident, since i have trouble summarizing and explaining. instead i sat there like an exhibit in some TBI (traumatic brain injury) gallery, taking in the “oooh’s” and “aaaah’s” of surprise and sympathy. it seemed like a sigh of relief came from the group, as if to say, “phew, there’s plenty to pray for here!” i was an all-you-can-pray smorgasbord. when anya was finished with the background info, Dan spoke again.

“what, specifically, would you like us to pray for you then?”
i thought for a moment. “well, just perseverance to continue through this, i guess.”
“ok, would you like us to pray for healing too?”

healing may seem like an obvious, if not top-priority, request, but i’ve never asked God to heal my brain. not once. from waking up in the hospital, to rehabilitation and therapy, to where i am now, i’ve never felt that the car-accident was a deviation from God’s plan. i’ve never felt that it was a wrong that had to be righted. i believe my perspective in all this is a testament to His grace, more than any characteristic on my part.

“i don’t think i’m meant to pray for healing…” i began.
“don’t limit God!” the man from the older couple interjected.

i was quite offended at this outburst, but more annoyed because i knew where this conversation was going.

“don’t limit God,” the old man repeated, “he can do all things, he keeps his promises.”

“i’m not limiting God…” i began to explain, but was cut off once again.

“he says in his word…” i tuned out as the old man went on to recite more Sunday School posters at me, this time accompanied by his wife who provided background agreement/affirmation sounds. after a few moments of this, Dan spoke up to get the prayer started, and to keep the older couple from performing a tag-team faith-plant on me.

that wasn’t the first time i’d been given the “God-can-fix-you” speech. i had a similar encounter with a man at a coffee shop once who exclaimed, “God can heal you, you know!” as if he were excited about a sale at the Gap: “Cargo pants are on sale, you know!” oh, really? i should pick some up!

like a doctor who prescribes medication before hearing the symptoms, some people have a preconceived notion of what is “wrong” or “bad” with my situation, and also what will make things “right” or “good”. because i got hit by a drunk driver, the resulting head injury is “bad” and God, the trump-card cure-all, can correct it. not only is he able to do this, he is obligedto because of the promises he gives in the Bible. i just need to have faith, i’m told, and believe that God will make all things good again.

again? God will make things good again? the insinuation here is that my life now isn’t good. the idea is that God didn’t intend for this so he’ll make it right and put things back on track. now, i’m the first to admit that i regularly have days where i’m pissed off and annoyed, days where i’m overcome by my inability to make decisions. i also have days where insecurity rules, and i’m often incapacitated by fear. does that make life bad? i don’t believe it does. challenging? for sure. complicated? you better believe it. but don’t call it bad. i don’t.

the problem we so often run into is that we define good/bad in human terms. we attribute value based on things like fairness, convenience, and comfort. i got hit by a drunk, no fair. brain damage makes everything hard, this isn’t the way it should be. i firmly believe God isn’t interested in our convenience, and if things were truly made fair, we’d all be in deep shit. we talk about God’s promises, but nowhere does he promise a “good” life, not in the way we define “good”. in fact, we are assured of the opposite. this means i don’t wait for God to heal my brain, take away my struggles, and make everything like before. that’s not the “good” he promises. the “good” he promises calls me to trust him in the midst of brain damage, spinal troubles, and insecurity. instead of trusting God to make good out of this, i trust that this IS the good.

what? are you serious?

serious as cardiac arrest.

and i would know.

i’ll admit that on a certain level, i want deliverance from my injuries, but God doesn’t promise to meet my wants. he promises to meet my needs, and i need him to help me carry on and persevere because of my injuries. this need, then, glorifies him because he gets the credit for any progress i make and success i may have.

and this is good.

real good.


About jaybrandsma

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3 Responses to Redefining Good: A Primer

  1. Well even though I’m not on board with the whole God thing….if I was I’d go with your interpretation of it. You have a very healthy view of God.

  2. hannah says:

    Thanks Jay for reposting this.


  3. Joni Thacher says:

    thanks, jay. i think i read this a couple years ago, but i needed this perspective this morning.

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