Tension With A Good God

If I had to describe my relationship with God in two words, they would be love and tension.

God gives unfathomable love, grace, compassion, guidance, wisdom, and joy generously to those who love Him. He is beautiful, tender, and an awesome Father. All of which fall under the umbrella of His great love.

But, human as I am, I cannot deny the tension. My Father and I have such different natures. How can there not be tension?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

I was listening to the radio and a caller was talking about her son nearly missing a car accident because he forgot his keys. The few minutes it took to run back inside his house caused him to miss a car accident in his path. If he had left a few minutes earlier, he would have been right smack in the middle of it.

“God saved my son!” she said.

The radio host got excited and reciprocated with a story about someone she knew that escaped a tragedy by mere minutes. “God is good!” she said.

There is no doubt that God is good.

However, these types of statements make me uneasy. When people assert that God saved them from this or that, I start to squirm. Do we claim to know the will of God? How do we know what is good or bad?

We have to be careful about proclaiming blessings in anything and everything that happens. How would the statement that God saved this caller’s son sit with the parent of someone who was killed in that accident?

Also, there are near misses every day. In any given car accident, there are a handful of people involved. Yet, there are many more that are not.

Let’s say that there is a 5% chance that you will get in a car accident every time you get in your car. That would mean that there is a 95% chance that you won’t. Is God’s hand in each of the 95%? Or, does the world just run its course, and sometimes accidents happen?

Did God save all of those 95% because that was His will? Or, is it just that statistically, some people get in a car accident and some don’t?

Obviously God can do whatever He wants at any time. However, to say that His hand saves every single person that does not get in a car accident is a little presumptuous. Again, do we claim to know the will of God?

If you asked my kids they would tell you that when I say goodbye I am not really leaving. They know I will come back in at least once because I forgot something. It’s just one of the many joys of getting older! So when someone calls that a miracle, something I do daily, I squirm a little.

Tension.

At the same time I am very thankful every time I pass a car accident that I was not involved in. But, do I think that God orchestrates who is in every car accident and who isn’t? He certainly can. And, I think at times He does. But, I wouldn’t say that every time I avoid an accident, it’s because of God’s hand.

It’s entirely possible that more good could come out of it if I was in that car accident.

We cannot begin to understand the ripple effects of things happening in life. We cannot know what is ultimately good or bad. What we see as tragedy could trigger a set of events that could lead an entire nation to Christ. We don’t know.

Only God knows.

Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.  Psalm 139:4-6

A friend of mine’s daughter was in the middle of the attacks in Nice, France this past summer. She was not hurt and quickly got a flight home before they closed the airport.

Was I rejoicing with this relieved mother when her plane landed in the U.S.? Was I thanking God for protecting this precious child? I absolutely was! And if it were my child, I would have been on my knees praising God and thanking Him for keeping her safe.

But . . . 

What about those whose loved ones were not safe or protected?attacks-in-nice

At least eighty four people, many of them children, were killed on that fateful day in France.

How could God let children die so horrifically?

Tension.

As a Christian, one cannot ‘square’ everything to complete satisfaction. My pastor once said, “Life with God is about sitting in the tension of unanswered questions.”

Do I feel settled or ‘squared’ with my understanding of everything in scripture or in the world?
Am I OK with the suffering of children in the world?
Am I content with the scripture about women not being permitted to pastor/lead in the church?

No, I’m not. I am not squared. Not with a lot of things.

To be human is to experience tension with the world, AND tension with God.

We experience tension when our will conflicts with His. We feel tension when we can’t square certain things in our limited minds. We experience tension when our nature rubs up against the perfect nature of God.

Tension.

But we have a patient God. A God who is full of love and mercy. A God that goes above and beyond. And a God who gives life when we deserve death.

God is OK with my tension and with yours. In fact, I think God delights in the wrestling. As long as it moves us toward Him.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:1

 

Our God is in Heaven; He does whatever He pleases

Who gets blessed? And, what does getting or being blessed look like?

Why does the family down the street get the big house and the nice cars and the perfect kids? Why does one person get healed from cancer and another does not? Is being born in one country instead of another a blessing?

Why do the wicked seem to have no consequences?

Why does God do what He does? Or, why does God not do other things?

These are tough questions that we all have asked at one time or another.

In the story of Job, the question of blessings and ‘the law of retribution’ caused Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to get stuck.

They believed strongly in the idea of cause and effect. They assumed that what happened to Job was 1) done by God, and 2) because of  sin. Neither of which was true.

Eliphaz speaks.

You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will fulfill your vows.
28 What you decide on will be done,
and light will shine on your ways.   Job 22:27

Bildad speaks.

Since your children sinned against Him,
He gave them over to their rebellion.
But if you earnestly seek God
and ask the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
then He will move even now on your behalf.    Job 8:4-6

Zophar speaks.

But if only God would speak
and declare His case[b] against you,
He would show you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom has two sides.   Job 11:5-6

If Job would just repent and change his ways everything would be better, so they thought.

They were stuck. They couldn’t fathom a cause outside of themselves – meaning humanity. They couldn’t fathom the cause being all about the glory of God and not  Job or his children.

How often do we get stuck like these men? We can’t figure out why God gives blessings to some and not others.

I’ve lived a righteous life, why is this happening to me?
Why is God not answering my prayers and healing me?
Am I being punished for something?
Why did God protect their child and not mine?

We think that it is all about us. We are so wrong.

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.  Psalm 115:3

Everything God does is ultimately for His own glory. It’s not about us.

How often do we look at the questions of life through the lens of our own humanness; our own importance; our own significance?

The world revolves around the human race, right? After all we dominate over the earth. We are far superior to any other living thing. We like the idea of being the center of the universe.

However, this mentality is exactly what keeps us stuck.

What if we viewed life through the lens of God’s glory?

Once we grasp the fact that it is all about Him and not us, it takes the pressure off. Then, we are free to be His children, and free to be who He created us to be.

God doesn’t necessarily give us what we deserve or don’t deserve, or try to make everyone happy. He doesn’t do things for this person or that nation. It is about His glory, and His glory alone.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth!”   Psalm 46:10

The fact that God does everything for His own glory does not make Him selfish. If we look at it through very human eyes, then we might see it as selfish. But, if we look at it through His eyes, the picture is very different.

The fact that it is all about Him is a good thing. Because He is good!

According to John Piper in his book, Desiring God,

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We want God to be glorified and He wants us to be satisfied. It’s mutually beneficial. The way He designed it is perfect. He goes on to say . . . .

“God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied are one experience in the Christ-exalting act of worship–singing in the sanctuary and suffering in the streets.”

“We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us.”

He is so good! And when we live to glorify Him, our lives are transformed.

We should be thankful that the universe does not revolve around us. If it did, the world would be an empty, lonely and dark place. It would be a black hole without the glory of God. He brings light. And, He brings everything that’s good in the world.

So, does God do whatever He pleases? You bet He does! And, thank God for it!

“But he stands alone, and who can oppose him?
   He does whatever he pleases.   Job 23:13