[Word count: 839. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]
Lately whenever I hear “you said,” I pocket it away, like a child does a shiny object found. At the emotional climax of Karate Kid, Jaden Smith pleads earnestly, “You said when life knocks you down we can choose to get back up. Well I’m trying to get back up! Why won’t you help me?” Something pinged in me.
It called to mind Jaden’s mom in A Low Down Dirty Shame who, caught by an angry and villainous Charles S. Dutton, reminds him innocently, “now, you said that you wouldn’t hurt me!” Ping again.
Jessica Reedy’s “Marching On” opens with the lyric, “Thought my mistakes would change the way you love me, but I remember you said you’d never leave, you’d never go.” Resounding ping.
I caught the pattern. Hearing others’ pleas for fairness and promises kept was echoing the silence of my own. As things in life periodically turn bleak, I wonder, “God are you still going to keep your promises?”
Stakes is high
I was taught that heaven and earth would pass away if even one jot or one tittle of the Word of God became untrue (Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17). The faith I have in this is something of a line of credit I extend to God. I don’t mind believing in him (a loan) because he has an established history of making good on his promises (paying me back). It’s been a sound investment up to this point; usually God only uses about 20-30% of his credit line before paying it back.
However, lately, he’s been carrying higher balances. I’ve been asked to believe incredibly. I’m not used to going this long without being paid back yet. Still, God seems to indicate in his Word, “I’ll pay you back later.” I’m not sure if he means in this life or the next. I’m not sure I have enough faith-currency to cover the expensive leaps of faith God is asking me to take. Could I go bankrupt investing in this? I’m beginning to get worried.
If this… then that
I majored in computer science, so I understand the logic of a conditional if/then statement. The way that works is, if the condition is satisfied, then the result happens. For instance John 15:7 says “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, [then] you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
By that logic, if you DO NOT abide in God and his words DO NOT abide in you, then you can ask what ever you want—and ain’t none of it gon’ get done.
Much of my formative teaching in Christianity was very if/then-based. If you’re good, then you get a reward. If you’re bad, then you get a punishment. This was the way we believed and applied Biblical principles. It was hard and fast that if you follow the rules, you would get a certain result. This implies that we have a certain amount of control over what you want to get in this life. But…
There is a loophole called sovereignty. God is loving and compassionate, merciful and kind, but he doesn’t have to be, because he is God. Sovereignty means he’s the 800-pound gorilla. If he chooses to defer, alter, bend, or even—Himself forbid—break these rules, what exactly can YOU do about it?
He can heap judgment or blessings on whoever he chooses. And he does! In an early instance of wig snatching in John 21:20-22, Peter asks Jesus what’s to become of one of the disciples, and Jesus pulls rank: “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.”
If you’re good, then you get a reward, but maybe not because when it rains, it rains on the just and unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). If you’re bad, then you get a punishment, but then again maybe not because the Lord is longsuffering and his mercy endureth forever. Even if God is dependable, he sure is unpredictable.
Where’s the fruit?
My mother always taught me to “remind God of His word.” When doubt or disappointment arises, I call his promises into question. Will you still do what you said? Will you help me? Promise you won’t hurt me? Promise to never leave me?
After living through the “name it and claim it” spiritual fad of the 80’s, some questionable “everything is a spirit” binding and loosing in the 90’s, a 2000-era throng of broke folk holding on to the last vestiges of prosperity gospel, and most recently, Juanita Bynum’s downright embarrassing Facebook tongues, I have to ask of our belief: “where’s the fruit?”
“Who do you think you are? Ha ha ha, bless your soul. Do you really think you’re in control?” —Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”
Even with the full backing of the Bible, our ability to affect our environments and situations seems hit-and-miss at best.
How much control do you really believe the Word of God allows you? And how much depends on what God allows?
- “God Is Good” Until He Isn’t: What Happens When God Says No? (DC District Diva): Here’s another perspective on how to cope when God doesn’t give you what you thought you should have gotten.
Check out other blogs from Junkyard Salvation:
- For Believers Who Have Considered Apostasy When Faith Isn’t Enuf: A testimony about considering Agnosticism when faith doesn’t make sense.
- Smart People Problems: Is it possible to be saved AND smart at the same time?
- Nothing Can Come Between Us: How I hold on when the cares of this world start to choke my faith.
- A Prelude To Forgiveness: Some practical step to make it easier to forgive someone who probably doesn’t deserve it.
- In Case of Fire: What is a Christian to do when in the throes of extreme anger?
Twin…! I’ve been tangling with this very thing! Even got to a point where I was questioning if it’s even possible for us to truly love God when the backdrop of the whole thing is eternity in hell. I came to a point where I had to admit to myself -I don’t think I love Him.
But I hold the Bible as true.
Which means (currently) that His love is EVERYthing- what He does is what He does. He is a king. I am not. I obey because I believe.
Then my world got flipped when I recalled “if you love Me, you will obey My commandments.”
Exactly! You seem to know how to do this well. Take everything I’ve been thinking and putting it into a blog. It’s just all crazy really, telling God about his promises while knowing at the back of your mind that he doesn’t owe you jack, he can choose to not answer you!
What does one do then? Approach God on a need to basis, in a pragmatic manner? (As a reference, just in case you’re interested, I’ll recommend you read Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling)
You know, I believe we control what we control if that makes any sense. I have dominion over my little sphere here in the world. At the same time, I have surely felt like I was getting boxed in at times by God. I’ve learned I’m one of the ones He chases. I have come to be thankful for it. So there are things I am going to get, other things, I’m not going to get – or maybe not get right now and it’s ok.
The other thing on this journey has been the acceptance and marriage of all of my selves and and multitudes so to speak. There are so many pieces of us – God is fully aware of it all and I believe our job is to figure out how the pieces come together and fully accept how all of them work.
Tragedy, mayhem, etc? I can’t explain it. I don’t try to. I stopped trying to fully comprehend it all the time. I revert back to the Romans 8:28 because I choose to believe there is a purpose for every thread in the fabric.
I believe that God is allowing these opportunities to come and go in our lives. I also believe that when we exit the tangible mind, we enter into the truth and that truth whispers, “All is well.” It’s our labeling it that causes the confusion. “Be Still and Know…” that’s a truth beyond truth.
i understand, empathize, agree, AGREE, 80’s 90’s 00’s YUP! I LOVE YOUR SCRIBBLINS! ..comforting side note to your gorilla analogy:
there ARE things even God can’t do.. “he Bible indicates several things that God cannot do. He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). He cannot die. He cannot be eternal and created. He cannot act against His nature. He cannot be God and not be God at the same time. He cannot create anything over which he has no power. Sin is impossible for God.” RC Sproull, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
It looks like this is your “The Ugly Side of God” moment. I realized that, at the end of the day, God is my father and fathers can be great or a pain depending on the time of day. Thankfully, he’s no DMX, probably more of a Barack, as in, “Yes, chile, I love you but I’ve got ish to do and the world is bigger than you. So, stop all that whining!” Okay, maybe this a horrible analogy, but it helps me…somehow. Yeah, we can’t choose our parents/guardians, but we love them and they love us (in their way). Maybe, we’ll understand when we’re older or maybe we won’t.
Okay, I’m willing to accept “tough cookies” as an explanation. Sometimes it be like that!