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

 

5 ways to put God above the American Dream

Suburban America is the easiest place to fall asleep in our faith. The American Dream breeds comfort. And, comfort breeds complacency.

People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they’re all asleep at the switch.
– Florence King

I grew up in a very affluent suburb of Detroit. It was all about the American dream. Everything around me reinforced this, the media, my school, my parents and even my church.

I felt like I needed to get an education, a job and climb the corporate ladder. I needed to make enough money so I could have a big house in the suburbs. I would get married, have two kids, and a dog named Sparky. I would work for 30 to 40 years in a career and retire comfortably at 65 and do nothing until the end of my days.

If you choose to live differently than that, you will stand out. If you live in middle class America and decide to put Christ first, you will be the weird one. You will be different.

Can God be our number one while living in suburban America? Absolutely! We can put God first wherever we are.

There are five ways to put God above the American Dream.


1. Create margin in your life

The biggest separation between my family and the culture is our level of busyness. My husband and I decided many years ago that we were not going run the rat race of life. We agreed that we would try to always have margin.

According to Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D., margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits.

Margin is not a popular concept in American culture. Middle class Americans esteems those who work way too much and are way too busy. We make busyness an idol. And, I don’t see the church being much different.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42  

I am dumbfounded when I see people at church talking about their multiple jobs and how busy they are. And they’re not just talking about it, they’re bragging. They wear their busyness like a badge of honor.

Create margin in your life. Leave space for God to move. Notice those around you. And always remember that God is number one and people are more important than our schedules.

2. Make God the Lord over your money

If Christ is not Lord over your money and possessions, then He is not your Lord.
-Randy Alcorn

I was very much raised with the American Dream mentality. It was the mentality of more, more, more! Why wouldn’t we buy a bigger house? That would make us happy, right?!

The Bible contains twice as many verses about money as it does about faith and prayer combined, about 2,350! Does money matter? It absolutely does! Money is a tool that God can use to further His Kingdom. In and of itself money is neither good nor bad. But when it is misused, destruction follows.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”   Malachi 3:10

If God is really our Lord, we will not be focused on the comforts of this life, but rather, on our eternal inheritance. If we focus on eternal treasures, we will more likely give our money away rather than spending it on ourselves.

The depth of transformation in the lives of the early Christians was most clearly evident in their willingness to surrender their money and possessions to meet each other’s needs.   ~Randy Alcorn

3. Get out of your bubble

Speaking as someone who was born and raised in the second richest county in the nation and is currently lives in the first, I can say that it is so easy to get stuck in our little bubble. We become out of touch with the ‘real’ world.

It is so easy to become out of touch with the poor and the needy. In the suburbs, you don’t ever have to see them if you don’t want to.

When my husband and I moved to our current home, we vowed not to assimilate into the rich, snobby, elitist culture that is stereotypical of the suburbs. And with the exception of being a Starbucks addict, we have done pretty well. We are definitely the trailer trash of our neighborhood! And, we are proud of it!

Living in the ‘burbs’ can be dangerously comfortable. We must get out of our comfort zone and go to places that need the light of Christ.

I don’t deny that the suburbs need the light of Christ. Middle class Americans are some of the hardest people to share the Gospel with. How do you convince someone who has everything that they need Christ?

Get out of your bubble. Seek out ministries that serve the poor, visit inner city churches, and go on mission trips to places of extreme poverty. Seek out the different and the uncomfortable. That is what Jesus did.

4. Downsize when everyone else is upsizing

My husband and I regret upsizing ten years ago when we bought our house. While it is a typical suburban house, it is more than we need. We could have stayed in our previous house and had more money available to give to Kingdom work.

Was God the Lord of our money then? Would we have made the same decision if He was? Probably not.

Do we love our house? Yes!

Is it comfortable? Yes!

Do we have a lot of extra money to invest in God’s kingdom? Not as much as we could have if we had a smaller house.

5. Don’t worry

Last summer I was out to dinner with a bunch of girlfriends on a beautiful summer evening.  The restaurant was right on the Monan Trail and it was buzzing with activity.

After talking about jobs and kids our conversation turned to current events. (sadly, even though these were all church friends, we rarely talk about God) My friend shared her concerns about ISIS and about how safe, or unsafe, we are in this country. Than, another chimed in with her equal concern with the state of this country and the economy and the current administration.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket. It is, and it always has been. God warned us about how it would be in scripture, and it is all happening. Why are we surprised?

And it is not just in the world, but in the church as well.

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.   2 Timothy 3:1-5

But, Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)! Do we believe that?! Either we do, and we walk in confidence with God’s peace, or we don’t and we continue fretting.

We must believe God, not just believe in Him. And, we must take His Word as truth. If you don’t believe that His Word is true, than you will never have peace.

In Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, he describes people who are obsessed with Jesus. He writes, “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.”

God is the God of peace. He tells us not to worry, because He is in control, He is good, and He is able. We must focus on eternity not just the here and now.


Dare to be different than those around  you. Dare to live like Christ instead of living for the American Dream. Be radical for the One who died for you.

Feeling tension with the culture is something that we should experience if we are to be like Christ. If you fit in and are quite comfortable in life, you may want to ask yourself –> Am I putting Christ first?