This devotional was originally published on March 1, 2017.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—
— Ephesians 2:1–5
I learned a long time ago through observation in counseling situations that when someone uses the conjunction but, it basically means, “Disregard everything I just said.” For instance, when a husband says about his wife, “I appreciate her fixing dinner, but there was a lot of stuff she did not do that needed to be done,” the but in that sentence just cancelled out the appreciation of said dinner. Or when a wife says, “It was good that he was home, but he really didn’t do anything to help,” what she is saying is that the first part of the sentence (he was home) really doesn’t matter, because of the second part of the sentence (he didn’t do anything to help).
This same thing is true in Scripture. When we come across “but God” statements, we should read that the first part just got cancelled out. In fact, you can disregard what was just said. When Paul writes in Ephesians 2, he begins by describing a mess. We were in dire straits. The bad news is that we were in a terrible place, and the worse news is there is nothing we could do by our own strength to get out of it. But the good news is predicated with “but God”. In other words, disregard the bad news because of God.
The Psalmist wrote these words:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
— Psalm 73:26
In other words, he was saying, “My flesh and my heart (which represented all that he was) fail me, but you can disregard that because God is involved, and he is my strength. He is all I need.”
What is true in Scripture is also true in our lives. When God is involved, he cancels out the preceding mess of our lives. “But God” cancels out the helplessness and hopelessness of anything and everything that comes before it:
My marriage is falling apart, but God is bigger than any conflict.
My kids are walking into dangerous places, but God is merciful.
I don’t like who won the election, but God is still ruling the world.
The doctor had bad news, but God is a healer.
Layoffs are coming, but God always provides.
I’m in a dark place of depression, but God is my light.
Sin has its grip on me, but God dwells in me and he is greater.
Whatever you face today, remind yourself that God is more. He is greater. He is bigger. He cancels out whatever came before him and, if you are a believer, he is with you.