For about a year now I’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy spiritual stuff. If I had to break it down to one sentence it would be as follows. I’m having a hard time believing in God’s goodness. It’s not something that I feel constantly. It’s more like something that will rear its ugly head right when I think I’ve made a breakthrough. The following story illustrates succinctly my actual issue.
Some time ago there was woman I was praying for. (To preserve her privacy I will just say she was a friend of a friend). She had gotten very discouraging news about her unborn child from her doctor. She and her husband asked those close to them to pray that God would do the miraculous and change the discouraging news. When the mutual friend told me about this so that I could also pray she said that this woman and her husband believed that God could do the miraculous. When she said this without a moments pause two thoughts went through my head:
“God absolutely can perform a miraculous healing; but he won’t.”
And that right there is the crux of my struggle. To use a very “Christianese” turn of phrase my flesh overtakes my spirit in this area quite a bit. I read the Bible and I see Jesus perform miracles and I believe they happened. I hear stories from people in my life whom I absolutely trust about modern miracles, and I believe that they happened. And yet, I can’t seem to stop my brain from assuming that while God could, he ultimately won’t.
I’ve been upset over my inability to get past this struggle. I go to church and feel so close to God during worship. I spend time in my Bible on my own time and feel myself growing in my faith. And yet, I can’t seem to get past this idea of a cruel God that holds the solution to the world’s problems in his hand and yet won’t give it to them because….well because why? What are the “pat” reasons we usually get for why?
1) We are given free will and make our own choices and those choices can sometimes lead to bad consequences: that’s all well and good if you are talking about scenarios where people make a choice that gets them in a sticky spot. But what I’m struggling with are the times when things happen that are out of our control.
2)God allows bad things to happen so that he can bring good out of them and bring glory to his name: Pardon my turn of phrase, but screw that. God could bring glory to his name in any number of ways without having to allow terrible things to happen to innocent people along the way. Even if the previous sentence wasn’t true I wouldn’t want to serve a God who uses people like his own sort of cosmic puppet show.
3) We live in a fallen world and because of that bad things happen to good people: This is the one I feel less certain about one way or the other. On the one hand I feel the same as above; screw that. It makes God seem a little “hands off” when it comes to us which doesn’t sit well with me. It also brings up the question of why then does God choose to step in sometimes and not other times? The Bible says God is no “respecter of persons” but doesn’t it seems like he is sometimes? Why do some people get healed and others don’t? One the other hand, I do believe that as human beings we are victims of a sinful world that sometimes chews us up and spits us out. And yet living in this world there have been moments where I have been so sure of God’s goodness. Of his care and his love for me. I can’t seem to come down on either side of the fence on this reason.
I know here is where I should have some of kind of wrap up paragraph about how even though I struggle with viewing God as a petty jerk I eventually have come around to see that isn’t who he is and now I’ll go wander off into the sunset. But the truth is, I still feel this way. I feel this way a lot. This past Sunday at church I heard a sermon about how sometimes God sends the angel to get us out of our situation, and other times we get the whip. (The sermon used the illustration of the apostles being thrown in jail for preaching the gospel, and angel letting them out, how they continued to preach, and instead of being thrown back in jail were whipped and let go. It was a great sermon so don’t take anything else I write as a criticism of the sermon itself) I instantly felt my back go up at those words; not because I don’t believe they are true, but because I don’t know how to deal with a God that allows both. I believe that, like in the sermon I heard, Jesus himself went through the whip and then came through with his own angel of resurrection. I just don’t understand why sometimes I get the angel without the whip but other times I get the whip first.
The best kind of “summing up” I can say is that I haven’t given up on finding a solution. I know God isn’t petty. I know this not because the Bible tells me, or because I heard it in a sermon. I know it because I’ve felt his arms of love in some of my darkest moments. When I feel scared about my future I feel his comfort surround me. When I worship him I feel overwhelmed with a sense of joy. So in those times when I begin to see God not as benevolent but as a removed being who operates purely on a whim I remind myself of the times I have felt close to him. I think “I know this is how it feels. But my feelings are lying to me.” and I send those thoughts to the caboose of my train.
Mostly, I accept being able to say I don’t know. I don’t know the answers to the questions I’ve posed in this entry. And that’s okay. I don’t need the answers. I need to be patient with myself. Jesus is never shown as being impatient with unbelief. He gets it. He doesn’t require me to always like him or understand him. I don’t need to understand God to love him and serve him. He loves me unconditionally.
My nieces and nephew don’t understand everything I do and even if I tried to explain it all to them they still wouldn’t completely understand. It doesn’t annoy me when they ask questions. It doesn’t annoy me if they get mad at me. They’re children. Eventually they’ll reach an age where they do understand, and we’ll talk to each other as equals. I believe God is the same way. He’s not annoyed that I don’t get it. He’s not annoyed that I’m, mad at him. He knows that now I see through a glass darkly, but someday I will see him face to face. And then I’ll finally understand it all. I can’t wait.