It began to seem that his blessings were more randomly than uniformly distributed than I had once believed. The “God-always-does-this-and-not-that” approach to which I had previously ascribed didn’t seem nearly as valid as it once had. I used to think that he distributed blessings at more predictable increments along our path. Now it seems like he tosses them out like dice. He doesn’t seem so nearly as “in control” as I had once believed. That’s why I call him the “Sometimes God” and claim that he’s “In control but not controlling.”
He’s the God who watched as one apostle was beheaded, and then shortly afterward, rescued another from the same fate (Acts 12). What’s up with that?! I guess if I knew a conclusive answer to that, I wouldn’t be me – I’d be him, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’m not even a very good me, let alone a good him.
Anymore it’s not often that I ask him “why” he does what he does. To the why question he usually gives me answers that all pretty much sound like “Trust me.” Over time I’ve become more content not knowing why. I don’t need all the answers as long as I know he has them. I guess I could say that I’m a bit more at ease with his decisions these days.
A little girl sleeps peacefully in the back seat because she trusts that her dad knows how to drive. Dad must be a good driver, so why worry? (That is, he was a good driver until the day she got her own drivers license. Now she’s behind the wheel, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing!)
I’m confident that God is a good driver, even if he does terrify me sometimes with how near the cliff’s edge he sometimes comes and takes me places I wasn’t anticipating (“Leads me where I don’t want to go” John 21:18). But that’s what makes a life with him an adventure. I don’t have to artificially induce adrenaline with video games and thriller movies. My adrenal glands get plenty of work in the work of God! Meanwhile, between adventures, I try to get as much sleep in the backseat as I can and avoid as much backseat driving as possible.
God is more of a moving target than I had once thought. What he does is not as predictable as who he is. There’s no real challenge to trust a coke machine. I put the money in and it dispenses the Mountain Dew. It’s predictable – unless I happen to be particularly desperate for caffeine, which is the most predictable time for it to eat my money. In which case, I’m tired and irritated!
If God were predictable where would the adventure be in following him? He’s not only capable of dispensing blessings, he is wise enough to decide when, where, and how to dispense them.
The question in the book of Job is not so much, “Why is there suffering?” The question it addresses is “Why do people serve God even when he doesn’t do things the way they want him to?” We don’t get to call it trust when we understand everything that he does. It’s when we don’t understand that trust steps up to the plate.
If our faith is primarily in the capability of God rather than in his character, then when he doesn’t, for whatever reason, wield that capability in a way that makes sense to us, our faith fails. If I trust him because he heals and provides, and then one day when he doesn’t heal or provide (at least in the way I had expected), what happens to my faith? But I’m learning that when my confidence is more focused on his character (which doesn’t fluctuate), then my mind is more at rest, believing that he will act consistently with who he is.
Would I prefer that God intervened more often and more consistently displayed his might? You bet! What he chooses to respond to or not to respond to with his power often puzzles me (that’s putting in lightly). It seems to me that there are seasons and sites in which he intervenes more regularly with power than in other seasons and sites. Sometimes we call that “Revival.” And then there are other times when he seems to observe more than intervene. He sits back and watches rather than displaying his might to radically transform an undesirable circumstance.
OK, maybe “sits back” is not the best description of what he does. But since I don’t know what he’s doing when he doesn’t intervene, I guess I imagine him sitting. Although, at Stephen’s stoning we do have the one instance in Scripture when it says that Jesus, rather than “sitting at the right hand of God,” he “stood.” He didn’t intervene and prevent the brutality (along with countless other atrocities in our world for that matter), but he stood up for a man that had stood up for him!
Another three would-be martyrs seemed to trust his character as much as his capability – “He’s able to save us from your blazing furnace, but even if he doesn’t, we won’t bow down.” In their case, though they trusted his judgment and were prepared for him to stand up for them, but not necessarily jump in to their rescue, he chose to intervene and wielde his capability. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. Can we trust a God like that? Since he’s the only One we’ve got, we’ll have to learn to.
My good friend Dan, whose two daughters were killed by a drunk driver says, “An attitude that I’m trying to develop in order to stave off disappointment is to want only what God wants for me; be happy if he gives it to me, and content if he doesn’t.”
Some musings from my Memoir about faith…
Whether or not I get what I want when I pray, my faith is built, I’m closer to God, and I enjoy him more when I trust him. I’m beginning to see faith as something other than simply utilitarian. It’s not just something that helps me acquire stuff from God.
It’s true that we gain faith when we get what we want from God. But I think I also grow in faith when I don’t get what I want. And it’s the kind of faith that loves and trusts him for who he is to me, more than for what he does for me. Yes, I must have faith in his power (his capability), but now I’m paying more attention to his personality (his character), and letting him work out how he’s going to wield his power.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”
“Lord, I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!”
“The single most important fact about
you is what comes to your mind when
you think about God.” (A.W. Tozer)