What if God has your back? by Brad Jersak

“What will be will be, but God always has my back.”
A friend of mine said that last night. 
Thoughts and feelings burst through my mind and heart like fireworks.
     “This feels deeply true to my heart of hearts.”
     “But is it true? What about affliction?”
     “How is this different than denial of suffering?” 
     “How is this different from platitudes like ‘everything always works out’?”
Because it doesn’t always work out.
Even good people go bankrupt, lose their jobs, their homes.
Even good people get sick, contract diseases, die in misery.
Even good people have accidents, endure tragedy, lose loved ones. 
The rain falls and the sun shines on the just and the unjust.  
So do tornadoes and tsunamis. 
And famine. And rape. And murder. And war. 
And crucifixion.  
Even on Jesus.
Shit happens. To everyone. 
And no, God doesn’t make it happen. 
No, God doesn’t send tragedy so that we might fear him.
No, God is not a death-dealer so that we might glorify him.
(and I use the sexist ‘him’ advisedly)
But neither are we “deists” … that is, just as people of faith don’t believe God causes evil, neither do we believe the Creator set the stage, then abandoned it to its own severe laws. Christians believe that God is somehow present and even active in the mess we live in. 
All of these thoughts passed through my awareness seconds after the words were spoken.  In truth, it’s the internal conversation I’ve been having for years.  I’ve written about it in A More Christlike GodIts in the chapter titled, “Sh*t Happens … and God is Good.”
I guess that title is similar to my friend’s claim:
“What will be will be, but God always has my back.”
And irrespective of my daunting unanswerable questions, there was something fresh about it. Something true. Something that calls me not only to believe that it’s true, but to ask how it’s true. More, the statement invites me to live as if it’s true.  Here’s my analysis of why it resonated and how I see it.
“What will be will be”
The statement first acknowledges and accepts the reality of affliction in this world.
Accepting the reality of affliction is not determinism or fatalism. No.
Acceptance is not saying every event must happen. No.
Acceptance is not saying there’s nothing you can or should do about it. No.
Acceptance is not saying affliction is good or necessary. No.
Rather, acceptance says, “It is what it is.” Acceptance says, “This happened and I can’t change that it happened.”
I cannot turn back time or will it away or manipulate it to be other than it is. It simply is. 
BUT we don’t stop there.
“But God always has my back.”
What does “God has my back” mean?
It does NOT mean that bad things never happen.
Because painful things do happen. 
Because affliction will happen.
Because all of us will finally pass from this life to the next.
Well then how is it true? How on earth (literally, actually) does God have my back?
The Urban Dictionary, that fallible but often helpful definer of idioms says,

“Got your back” – An expression assuring someone that you are watching out for them. Comes from making sure you are safe by watching what’s behind you when you’re busy looking ahead. 

Other online definitions that came up:

A person saying they “have your back” means they are there to help you out, they will watch out and take care of the things you’re likely to miss, that they are a second set of eyes and hands for you.

Such promises of safety remind me of the Psalms that seem to promise you will always be safe and never break a single bone or so much as stub your toe. Remember Psalm 91:12 where it says, 
11   For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12   they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13   You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
I memorized that Psalm and prayed it frequently through 1991. Then over the next decade I became angry. I listened to story after story of childhood molestation. I witnessed the devastation in the aftermath of hurricane Andrew. I saw firsthand the brutality of political oppression in Haiti. And the street PTSD of Vancouver, BC. And on and on. I was angry because Psalm 91 seemed to promise and not deliver. The words were simply not true … observably, verifiably. 

I said to God, “If it’s not true, fine. Then just don’t say. Just tell the truth!”

Any retreat to it applying only for those who “make the Most High their shelter” amounted to victim-blaming. 

Even the author of those lyrics experienced a reality different from what he was singing. 
Maybe that’s why he wrote them.
“God always has my back.” Really David? 

And anyway, the only Bible character who ever quoted that verse thereafter was Satan, in order to tempt Jesus to test it. If Jesus had believed Satan and took the leap, do you think the Father would have levitated him. Or would Jesus have fallen? Well, technically, he would have already fallen, right?

So there. I can tell you how the statement isn’t true. That’s easy. Any cynic could do it. 
But now I want to tell you how it IS true. Not merely factual, but TRUTH. 
“What will be will be, but God always has my back.”
“God always has my back” means that in everything that happens, God cares. And I don’t mean that God sits far off in heaven with a caring heart. “Cares” must mean something “on earth as it is in heaven” or it means nothing at all. 
“God always has my back” means that in the Incarnation of Christ, God fully knows and fully participates in my afflictions. Remember the letter to the Hebrews:

2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. 

4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

God has always has my back means:
God knows. God cares. God participates.
Even in my death. And now in Christ, even death isn’t a thing. 
KNOWING that God has my back changes things. 

What does it change? 
If I know God is with me and in me and loving me, then I will act in a particular way:
I will trust God and surrender to his mercy.
I will open my life to real world care from God through others.
And I will open myself to serve in the real world care of God for others.
I have an extra set of hands and eyes watching out for me … we’re called the Body of Christ for this very reason.  
But if I do NOT know God is with me and in me and loving me, I act in another way:
I will white-knuckle through life with unhealthy and destructive coping mechanisms.
I will give up on reaching out and I will isolate from the care of God through others.
I will live in the insanity of trying to watch my own back as if there were no God. 
And that drastically impacts  my real life. Some seem to manage that way just fine. 
But when affliction comes, and it will …I don’t manage well on my own. And I don’t need to. So I won’t.
Just when I need it most I will pray this ancient prayer:

For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and necessity, let us pray to the Lord. 

Lord, have mercy. 

Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Your grace.

At least for today, I will surrender to the care and watch for the mercy of the God. I will live as if God has my back. 
Because what if God does? Maybe … 

One day you’ll look back and you’ll see Where you were held … by this Love.

So what if just for today, you trusted that God has your back? What would that look like? What would living as if that were true look like? That’s called faith. Let’s find out.
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