Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lie of the Week #3

Always another thing to deal with.

Lately, I've been struggling with something that's not so much a bald-faced lie about God's character, but a mystery about how God works. It's the subtle belief that God doesn't intervene in our lives. I mean, he intervenes, but he doesn't INTERVENE. That he gives us wisdom and Godly principles to live by (that's no small toolbox, of course), then sits back and expects us to work it out as best we can. That he's kind of "hands-off" in the workings of the world.

The best way I can think of to put it: It's only the rules of the world that matter, and not God's.

Obviously, there are many ideas out there about how God works. I'm not going to be the one to figure him out. (I doubt he'll ever be figured out by a human.) There are man-made philosophies that discuss whether God is active or passive in his operation, and there are Bible-based philosophies that go both ways.

It can't be denied that God allows evil and frustration to exist in the world. And I'm not neglecting my own responsibility to work hard and to live with character and to love people. God isn't about to do everything for us (he's chosen to use the church to a great extent), and we have to live with the consequences of our actions.

But at the same time, I'm aware that this truth has taken a certain twist in my mind, and it's not a twist I like. It produces anxiety and discouragement inside. Despite the truths I've listed above, the message feels like it has a certain agenda.

Get it right, because you're on your own.

I'm not the only one who's dealing with this. Several friends of mine are in the midst of a long stretch of life in which God has seemed relatively quiet. Years of prayer aren't answered (at least not with a "yes"). Many innocent mistakes have been made. Dreams, victories, and goals, even Godly ones, remain far off even for the godliest people I know. Even our service for the kingdom seems to be accomplishing little.

Not to make life all about us, but it can get disillusioning after a while. God seems silent. It starts to feel like the rules of the world are the only ones that matter.

Many people just stop believing in God. The rest of us stop believing in his active work. Unable to agree that God simply isn't there, we decide that he "just doesn't work that way", like expecting a Big Mac from Wendy's. Or maybe we're getting it wrong. Or maybe God works exclusively THROUGH the world's rules and I'm a fool for even questioning all this.

And even when good things do come, they seem to be merely the result of our own hard work. We have the responsibility to credit every good thing to God. Scripture's clear on that. But it's tough, because sometimes these things are just so darn ordinary. Folks can look at our lives and find it easy to accredit these things to human workings. Nonbelievers graduate. Nonbelievers find jobs. Nonbelievers beat diseases. Nonbelievers reach goals, survive financial crises, overcome incredible obstacles, create heartwarming "Today Show" segments, fulfill dreams all the time - and glorify hard work and determination??!?! I didn't even know those were gods.

Where's Jesus in all this? Doesn't he want to be unmistakable to all the people watching?

It's only the rules of the world that matter.

A partial truth, and yet a lie. Because I know this isn't really about God's mode of operation - it's just trying to get me worrying about whether it's all up to me. It's often said that the way to strengthen a lie is to mix a little truth in. We are responsible, at least in part, for navigating this life. But lies sneak in. The enemy loves to put his spin on things.

I loved God's response to these thoughts of mine a few weeks ago. I poured them out to him, and he brought to my mind not a specific Scripture, but a story. A character I'm very familiar with, who definitely stood in my shoes a few times. I'll tell you later this week.

In the meantime I want to encourage you. If you're feeling like you're in a long, quiet stretch of life in which it's hard to distinguish the hand of God from the grindstone of life, and if you want to see God really break out in your life for a change, you're not alone. God isn't our puppet. We can't make him do things. But we can trust in his heart for us.

I am so encouraged that God answers me when I ask him tough questions, even when mysteries remain. More and more often, I'll take that over having all the answers.

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