If you were to ask my boyfriend and I about “Atlanta”, you’d probably get an immediate response of a crazy look. You then might get a laugh and maybe see us shake our heads. See, between the time that we first met via Zoom and when we first hung out in person (for seven hours, by the way), he took a solo trip down to Atlanta. However… things didn’t go exactly as planned. The original purpose that brought him down there ended up failing almost entirely, and by the time he came home he knew one thing for sure – he does NOT like Atlanta. He enjoyed the trip, yes, but to say it didn’t go as expected would be an understatement. Now, this is nothing against the city itself, but likely more just bad timing and bad experiences.
Fast forward to this week, and he’s about to bring home a beautiful, limited release, Taylor baritone guitar. I’ve seen some pictures and heard a recording, and guys – this thing is epic. It’s beautiful. He’s been waiting several months now for the once every three years release, and at long last that wait is almost over.
What’s pretty funny and ironic, though? He first learned about this unique guitar while he was on vacation and killing time in… yup… Atlanta.
So earlier today, the two of us having the sense of humor that we do, I asked him – “Hey honey, so I’m wondering… can anything good actually come from Atlanta?”
If that question sounds at all familiar and like something else my brothers and sisters in Christ have heard before, it’s because it absolutely is. In John 1, when Jesus calls Phillip and Nathaniel, Nathaniel asks Phillip – “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
In the first century, Nazareth was a very small community that was far away from the major cities. It also did not have a great political reputation, so it was quite understandable for Nathaniel to be skeptical and jaded upon hearing the invitation from Phillip. However, Phillip gave perhaps one of the best answers that we as believers can give to anyone skeptical or jaded or hurting and hopeless…
Come and see.
Given all that life has brought in our world in the last year and a half, it’s safe to say that many of us can think of at least one or two “Nazareth” things. Situations, seasons, events, relationships, jobs… so many different things that leave us with nothing but questions as to how God could possibly use it for our good.
Since leaving California in the fall of 2019, life has brought me more “Nazareths” than I can count. Deep homesickness, feeling metaphorically homeless and wandering for over a year, relapse in several areas in my battle with mental illness, the onset of more severe and debilitating ADHD symptoms, saying goodbye to a job that I had for three years that I (still) absolutely love, and more heartache and heartbreak than one person should be able to endure… and that’s just the beginning.
But… I didn’t come here to share a sob story. I came here to give testimony to our savior Jesus and to remind us all that – yes, crazy as it sounds, good things CAN come from Nazareth.
Looking back at the past two years, in complete transparency I’m not sure if I can say just yet that every moment of every day I believe the good outweighs the bad. Certain aspects of my current circumstances, sure, but there is still a lot of hurt. A lot of pain. A lot of brokenness.
Can anything good come out of moving for the first time out on your own five months ahead of a global pandemic?
Can anything good come of being forced from a job you love because your health is suffering so much?
Can anything good come out of living 27 years before learning you probably have ADHD?
Can anything good come out of fourteen months that felt like painful and isolating wilderness?
Can anything good come out of the daunting task of unpacking twenty-seven years of hurt and false beliefs because we simply didn’t know?
Can anything good come from the Nazareths in our lives?
The question is heavy, but if we look to the cross and to the empty tomb, I think we can find our answer.
YES. Good things can absolutely come out of Nazareth. The greatest thing came out of that first century city, and His name is Jesus.
One of the biggest examples of this in my current circumstances is the amazing relationship I have with the most incredible guy I know. He and I have talked about it many times – how it would have been nice to meet each other sooner (we’re 26 and 27). How it would have been nice to have each other last year when COVID began. How it would have been nice to skip out on the deep hurt in our lives that took place prior to meeting each other.
But we’ve also talked about the very real reality that, without many of the hardships we have BOTH endured in the recent few years, our paths may not have crossed. And if they had, we would have been very different people, and we may not have hit it off the way we did. One of those such scenarios? If I had moved to Peoria straight from California nearly two years ago.
God promises us that for those who love Him, He WILL work out everything and use it for good (Romans 8:28). It’s a beautiful promise, yes. But when we are in the thick of it, or when the night seems the darkest… it’s easy to begin asking those questions again.
Can anything good come out of our Nazareths?
Sometimes we see it right away, sometimes we don’t see it for a while. And other times, we never see it this side of heaven. But between all that God promises us – that He WILL work things for good and that He will never leave us nor forsake us – and the reality that, yes, the best thing DID in fact come from Nazareth… we can have the assurance that He will be with us and that He will fulfill those promises.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always this simple. Please know that most of the time when I write, I’m writing and preaching just as much for myself. In that struggle to believe that something good can come out of Nazareth, though… He gives us the most incredible promise and reassurance and invitation.
Come and see.
Not come after you believe or come when you have it all figured out. No, He just invites us to come.
In our lives today that can look like so many things – community with other believers, remaining active in a local church (in whatever capacity is possible for the situation given COVID-19), sharing and listening to other testimonies, and the list goes on.
Beloved friends, painful as it may be sometimes, the best things can and do come out of our Nazareths. God is sovereign, and He isn’t afraid to allow both the good AND the bad in order to grow us and shape us into who He wants us to be. So the next time we want to ask ourselves, can ANYTHING good come out of this situation… look to Jesus Himself, because the answer is yes.
And if it’s still a struggle to believe it even after that? Take a deep breath, and remember His invitation…