Among the most pivotal changes to my perception about God was in coming to terms with the idea that He does not always explain Himself. Nor does He get too shook up about appearances. Both aspects grated on me a bit at first, but they are true.
We were taught from an early age that Jesus, as the Son of God, paid the price for our brokenness with His own life. Without it we lack hope and the economies of eternity, life and death become quite real to us. However, when we choose to rely on Him, He does not remain a celestial gum ball machine. God becomes someone we can know, as Father God. Jesus – both God and man, becomes relatable as we observe His relationship with His Father. Anyway, that’s the gig, right?
Let’s assume you can relate to me on this level … having made those choices long ago, and having cultivated this relationship with God for decades. A lotta decades, now that I think about it. As with any relationship that starts out as acquaintances, a friendship grows and before long the two people can see one another’s humanity. The analogy breaks down a bit comparing this to a relationship with God but bear with me.
With familiarity in friendship, or a marriage, there’s so much isn’t there. Think of your best friend: there’s that time when she failed you completely. Or your spouse: He never picks up His socks. It would be great if she wouldn’t be so needy. And on we go.
Longevity in relationship with God is similar, except He’s pretty good about picking up His socks. But the fact is, God has a ‘nature’ just as we do. He has things He does, and does not do. The nuances become clear over time. Two of these I’ve pointed out, and want to discuss.
God does not always explain Himself. There are so many aspects of God that we learn through Scripture, through people, and even through Creation. Isaiah 45:15 says, “Thou art a God who hides.” I love that. Haven’t you ever had the world come crumbling in on you? You’re driving down the road, mumbling to God, asking for help – pleading actually – and there’s nothing. Nada. There can be all sorts of reasons for His silence. But sometimes it’s no different than two friends driving down the road together and one is blathering and the other one is listening, engaged, but not really saying much. At other times, life can be a bit of Hide-And-Seek with God. I’ve written about this before so I won’t overdo. But He’s no different than a good parent who lets his child struggle a bit while a lesson is learned.
God is not nearly as concerned about appearances as we are. Most people want to be found as good and kind people. Most of humanity wants to be found fighting for the right cause. We’re all appalled when we’re caught up short by facts. What about God? What about all that violence in the Old Testament of the Bible? Genocide and adultery, and babies sacrificed. Yeesh. So many appalling events, when you take a step back. Isn’t He a God of love? Why would a God of love allow people to die? Entire people groups being wiped off the face of the Earth? And what about the Flood? Starting over with human kind? I mean…
And yet He is. He is a God of outrageous love.
Being in a relationship with God doesn’t always mean that all my prayers get answered, and every wound is healed. All the desires of my heart are met.
Charismatic folk, in particular, are so convinced that if we name it and claim it, or if we shout that mountain down; if we fast and prostrate ourselves before God that it will all work out nicely. Because He’s a good God, right? He loves us? He does. And He is. But we’re positive that if we obey more, or we rejoice in our suffering that He’ll come through. And He does. … but if He doesn’t come through, what then?
As the song says, “You’re a good, good Father…” What about that when the long-awaited baby dies? What about that when we didn’t get to say goodbye? Or they weren’t healed? What if her excruciatingly difficult life just shuddered to a close?
I find that we’re afraid to wrestle with the hard questions. “What if it seems like He has failed me? What then?” When the equation shakes out, and I find that I’m the one that has failed, somehow that’s okay because I’m human. I screw up. But God? How do I wrap my head around this? He’s silent sometimes.
I can attest to having walked this road fully. Completely. Utterly. We are never prepared for the shattering disappointments. I want you to know that it’s okay to doubt. As a good, good Father, He’s vast enough to field all the questions. All the hate. All the decimating emotions and patterns of thinking.
Many of you in marriages have found that grit that makes you stay with your partner. The fun stuff is over and this is the long haul. Don’t misunderstand me … there are times when we need to walk away. Forgive ourselves, and others, and just quietly close the door. However, in the relationships where you are meant to go the long haul, it really does require staying in the game. It can be that way in a relationship with God as well. When you don’t understand. When, by all appearances, things don’t look right. When you get the air sucked out of you with bad news. The disciple named Peter and his colleagues were in the same predicament. When the going was getting rough, Peter said to Jesus, “To whom, Lord, would we turn? You have the words of eternal life.”
A decades-long relationship with God isn’t about having all my prayers answered. It’s a relationship. It’s about choosing to encounter Him, and to love and be loved by Him in spite of outcomes. It’s about learning to sit with Yah – the Almighty Father – when it’s messy. Elizabeth Eliot coined the phrased, “…to carry within one’s self the unanswered question.” That is what faith is all about. Often it’s only then – when we’re encountering the Presence of God, and basking in His love – that the questions cease to roar in our ears. And we can rest in the knowledge that we are deeply, deeply loved by a God who longs for relationship with us.