It’s such a tiny word.
Yet it holds such power.
“I love you, but I don’t want to marry you.”
“You do great work, but we have to let you go.”
“We got all the cancer, but you still have to do chemo.”
It’s not always bad news.
But it often is.
There is one way, however, that I love the word “but”.
And that is when you combine it with “God”.
It happens over and over again in the Bible.
The story will be moving along and something negative is going down.
But then the narrative changes with two simple, powerful words: “But God.”
Joseph, the dude of colored-coat fame, recognized the power of those words.
Do you remember the end of the story?
He had been reunited with his family in Egypt and all had been forgiven.
But then his Dad, Jacob, died.
And the brothers freaked out.
They were afraid that the only reason Joe was being nice was because of Dad.
Here’s the account from Genesis 50 from the New Living Translation:
“After burying Jacob, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had accompanied him to his father’s burial. But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.
So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.”
And I LOVE Joseph’s response. It rings with the power “but God”!
“Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 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. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.”
God steps in.
The story changes.
Another favorite “But God” of mine is found in Ephesians 2.
Paul writes, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins…But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.”
And again in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome:
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
I look around me, at my friends and family, and I see “But God…” written all over their lives as well.
There once was a little girl who was horribly neglected. But God wrote it on the heart of a family to bring her in to be one of their own and now she thrives.
Or the tale of a disposable child in China who should have died. But God used an orphanage there to get him to a family here, a place where he is chosen, wanted and loved.
The son of a Muslim Imam grew up as a devout follower of Islam, but God intervened and he is now one of the pastors at my church.
My Dad should have had serious – or even fatal – damage from the stroke last week but God arranged the circumstances so that he was one of the 30% who can get the clot-buster drug – and it was effective.
The doctor missed the 99% blockage of my Dad’s left carotid artery in the first test, but God made him take a second look and it was found and dealt with before it caused another stroke.
My parents both came from homes that should have trapped them in abusive patterns or bondage of some form, but God laid it on their hearts to have a marriage centered on Him and, because of that, my story is vastly different than either of theirs.
I have seen it over and over again.
Because our God is a God who intervenes.
Who steps into the story and turns it around.
Even when it doesn’t look like He is winning, He is.
Even when it feels hopeless, He isn’t.
Because He is the Author of The Story of our Lives.
And He is Sovereign over the details in them.
And when a life is surrendered to Him, the “buts” begin.
Dead in sins, but God brings the dead to life again.
Trapped in patterns, but God breaks the chains.
Given a death sentence, but God conquered death with an empty tomb.
Unable in my own strength, but God declares I can do all things through Christ.
Perhaps the best words in the Bible.
And the most powerful in any life.