A photo of a serene landscape with a beam of light shining through dark clouds, symbolizing hope and faith, accompanied by the words "But God" etched in the sky.

What Does But God Mean?

In life, we often face obstacles and challenges that seem too difficult to overcome on our own. When a situation appears hopeless, we may be tempted to give up. However, the saying ‘but God’ reminds us that there is a power greater than ourselves who can intervene.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: ‘But God’ is an expression of hope and faith that points to God’s ability to overcome any limitation or impossibility.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the meaning, context, and significance of the phrase ‘but God’. We will examine biblical examples that illustrate God’s power to change circumstances despite human inability or objections.

We will also discuss how the ‘but God’ mindset can empower and encourage us in the midst of adversity.

The Meaning and Context of ‘But God’

A Contrast Between Human Limitation and God’s Power

The phrase “but God” is used to contrast human inabilities, obstacles, and shortcomings with God’s supreme authority and power. It indicates that while a situation may seem hopeless or doomed to fail from mankind’s limited perspective, God has the ability to intervene with His mighty power and change circumstances for the better (source).

For example, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

This verse contrasts the brother’s evil actions with God’s ability to use that circumstance for a greater good that man alone could not achieve.

“But God” statements are often used in Scripture to demonstrate God’s sovereignty, omnipotence, and ability to redeem even the most broken or desperate situations.

Overcoming Obstacles, Defying Expectations

The contrast provided by “but God” statements sets up a scenario where humans face a hopeless obstacle or inability, yet God overcomes it through His divine grace and power. Some other examples in Scripture where “but God” indicates a reversal of expectations include:

  • Ephesians 2:4-5 – People were dead in sin, but God made them alive in Christ.
  • Romans 5:6-8 – People were powerless, but God showed His love for them through Christ’s sacrifice.
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10 – People were not a people, but God made them His people and gave them mercy.
  • The point made in these verses and others like them is that man faces limitations – physically, morally, and spiritually – but God offers redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. No obstacle is too great for God to overcome and no expectation too incredible for Him to defy.

    Percentage of Americans who believe God has the power to intervene in impossible circumstances 77% (Pew Research 2022)

    This statistical data shows that the majority of Americans recognize God’s supreme authority and ability to overcome human limitations. The phrase “but God” has resonated with Bible readers for millennia because it contrasts mankind’s weaknesses with God’s power to save.

    Biblical Examples of ‘But God’

    Creation (Genesis 1:1-3)

    In the beginning, everything was formless and empty. There was darkness over the surface of the deep. But God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Despite the chaos, God brought order through His powerful word.

    Joseph’s Story (Genesis 50:20)

    Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy. He was wrongfully accused and imprisoned in Egypt. But God used Joseph’s suffering for good – to save many lives during a great famine. As Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

    Israel’s Restoration (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

    The people of Israel were like dried up, scattered bones after being exiled from their land. There was no life or hope left. But God showed Ezekiel a vision of those bones coming together, being covered with flesh, and rising up as a vast army.

    God promised to put His spirit in His people and bring them back to their homeland. Despite their desperate state, God assured them of an incredible restoration.

    Saul’s Conversion (Acts 9:1-19)

    Saul persecuted Christians and dragged them off to prison until he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Blinded by the light, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” But God had plans to transform this persecutor into an apostle.

    Saul’s life was never the same after meeting the risen Christ. With a new name, Paul spread the gospel across the Roman empire.

    Spiritual Rebirth (Ephesians 2:1-10)

    We were all dead in our sins and under God’s wrath before Christ intervened. But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. He raised us up to be seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. It is by grace we have been saved, not by works.

    Our spiritual rebirth and salvation are gifts from a gracious God who wants us reconciled to Himself.

    Applying the ‘But God’ Principle

    Trusting God’s Ability Over Circumstances

    Life can throw us many curveballs that seem impossible to overcome. A job loss, financial hardship, illness, broken relationships – these circumstances can feel overwhelming and lead us to despair. But God is greater than any circumstance we face.

    As Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When we feel powerless in difficult situations, we can choose to trust in God’s power and ability over our limited human understanding.

    Though we may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, we can have faith that God will lead us through to the other side if we rely on Him.

    For example, Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs but has gone on to become an inspirational speaker, author, and founder of the nonprofit organization Life Without Limbs. Despite his challenging circumstances from birth, Nick put his trust in God to use him to spread hope and encouragement to others struggling with difficult circumstances.

    God transformed Nick’s disability into an avenue to inspire multitudes around the world. When we feel stuck in our circumstances, the “But God” principle reminds us that our limited human perspective fails to see the plans and purposes God can accomplish if we trust in Him.

    Finding Hope in Helplessness

    Sometimes in life we face situations that leave us feeling completely helpless, situations that seem totally unsolvable from our human perspective. Serious illness, bankruptcy, family division, damages from disasters – these life events can plunge us into despair and hopelessness about the future.

    But God offers endless hope, even in our darkest moments of helplessness. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” When we feel crushed by circumstances, God draws near to lift us up with His hope.

    Nick Vujicic once again exemplifies finding hope in helplessness. Can you imagine the hopelessness Nick probably felt as a child and teen born without limbs? Yet God transformed Nick’s story into one that offers inspiration and hope around the globe.

    Research shows that reading about others who have overcome adversity can help people develop resilience when facing their own difficulties. By turning to God in our moments of helplessness, He can fill us with a hope that not only helps us endure but equips us to help others enduring hardships as well.

    Letting Faith Overcome Fear

    Fear can be absolutely paralyzing, preventing us from moving forward in the direction God calls us. Starting a new job, entering a relationship, making a major life change – these situations naturally stir up fear in us.

    Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of disappointment – they can be major stumbling blocks to stepping out in faith. But God does not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). When we feel afraid, we can have faith in God’s perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

    Individuals like Nick Vujicic could have let fear dictate their lives. Can you imagine how fearful Nick must have felt when he was bullied and stared at as a child? He could have chosen to withdraw from life and keep his faith contained to avoid ridicule.

    Yet he chose faith over fear, being obedient to God’s calling to share his story around the world. God transformed Nick’s story of overcoming fear with faith into a testimony that has touched millions of lives.

    When we feel afraid, focusing on God’s love for us allows our faith to overcome crippling fear in order to walk in the purposes He has for our lives.

    The “But God” principle reminds us that though circumstances may seem impossible to overcome, God is able to redeem them for our good and His glory when we trust in Him. By focusing on God’s power rather than our limitations, His endless hope rather than our despair, and His perfect love rather than our fears, our faith can overcome and transform even the most difficult situations.

    The Significance and Impact of ‘But God’

    A Declaration of God’s Sovereignty

    The phrase “But God” declares God’s supreme authority and control over all circumstances. It emphasizes that no matter how dire or hopeless a situation may seem, God is able to intervene and bring about His purposes.

    This affirms that God is all-powerful and actively involved in human affairs, overriding evil plans and transforming despair into hope. Biblical examples like Joseph’s story (Genesis 50:20) demonstrate how God orchestrates events for His glory despite people’s wrong intentions.

    The “But God” mindset instills confidence that the Lord reigns and works all things for good (Romans 8:28).

    An Expression of Defiant Hope

    In the Bible, “But God” often introduces a sudden reversal or contrast, proclaiming the LORD’s ability to miraculously change desperate situations. This defiant hope declares that while oppressive circumstances, sinful rebeliion, or spiritual deadness may dominate for a season, God intervenes with resurrecting power.

    For instance, Ephesians 2:4 shifts from the doom of sinful existence to redemption in Christ: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.”

    “But God” conveys tenacious faith that struggles give way to the Almighty’s deliverance.

    A Mindset for Overcoming Impossibility

    “But God” sustains vision for breakthroughs when situations seem impossible. Humanly speaking, the lame man by the temple gate would never walk again and Lazarus would remain dead four days in the tomb.

    But God’s power shattered these natural limitations, resulting in healing and resurrection (Acts 3:1-10; John 11:1-44). Adopting this mindset empowers people to persist in prayer despite discouraging circumstances, believing God can do the inconceivable.

    As Jesus declared, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This perspective fuels audacious faith.


    In closing, the phrase ‘but God’ contains incredible power and potential. It forces us to lift our eyes above the limitations of human ability and declare faith in the One who is able to do the impossible.

    By adopting a ‘but God’ mindset, we can find strength in weakness, hope in despair, and victory in defeat. Whatever challenge you face, remember that anything is possible with God. Focus on his power, not your limitations, and expect to see barriers broken and obstacles overcome.

    With God, nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

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