Weeks ago I wrote about God’s will in a proactive sense. Knowing and doing the will of God in everyday life. There is another facet of God’s will that is far more difficult to grasp, that is when He – in His sovereignty – seemingly says “no” or “wait” to our plans, or we suffer hardship in the face of circumstances we know God could change.
I read once that the number one reason people lose faith or stop attending church is unanswered prayer…or perceived unanswered prayer. I add the last part because I am convinced that a whole lot goes on behind the scenes when we pray, that we are unaware of. Then there is the excruciating answer “no,” which often feels like no answer at all. At the heart of this kind of faith crisis, I’ve discovered in my own life at least, is a lack of trust in God’s goodness. A collision between my understanding of what is good and therefore what is good for me (as well as the people I care about) and God’s seeming response to my current situation. Consider Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be
opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the
one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread,
will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you,
then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
—Matthew 7: 7-11
Just about all of us can relate to this scenario, either by the way our parents treated us or the way we treat our own children. We are loved and we love, therefore we have received and we give good gifts. So how does a broken marriage, broken family relationships, the loss of a job, the loss of a home, the death of a loved one (you fill in the blank) fit into this concept?
One thing I hope to always avoid here are pat answers. They have no place in an honest dialog about faith. And honestly, theological discussions don’t help much either in the midst of a crisis. I know we live in a fallen world, yet it is still a world ultimately under God’s control. If He allows me to suffer, it’s sometimes hard to interpret as goodness.
Pondering over this in the past year, I have found that the crux of the matter lies not in my idea of what goodness is, nor whether God behaves in a manner that I consider good. It lies in my very relationship with God. Will I choose to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? This is a decision I must make regardless of the circumstances that surround me…or perhaps in spite of those circumstances.
Job must have had one incredible relationship with God. I know this because of two statements he made to his family and friends:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.” —Job 1:21
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” —Job 2:10
These statements tell me two things: 1) in Job’s estimation, God was worthy of his love, and 2) Job made the decision to love God no matter what happened in his life. He was committed to loving God even in the face of heaven-ordained hardship and suffering…even if it meant he would die naked and empty. This kind of love is not borne in a vacuum. Aside from the wealth and happiness Job experienced, there certainly must have been a rich relationship with God for such devotion (the visible manifestation of love) to exist.
Such devotion is truly a rare and beautiful gift to God. And come to think of it, what else do I have to give God, if not my devotion? Every-thing I have is His; every talent, skill, material possession and relationship. Nothing I have is my own, except my devotion. THAT ALONE is mine to give.