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November 17, 2011

“If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world. But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”


One of my favorite Christian authors says that if you can make complete nonsense of any major religion, chances are you haven’t understood it.  They are all worth studying I think.  But more often than not you’ll see some big differences between Christianity and everything else.  It really helps to clue us in to who God is, and for me it helps reaffirm why Jesus is so special to me and why my hunger for truth led to him and not something else.

Jesus made clear to us that when we talk to God, it doesn’t really make a difference if we use the right words or not.  He just wants us to pour out our heart.  We are emotional beings, like he is, and he wants us to approach him like we really are.  If a person has a complaint against God, he lets us air it out.  If we are really honest, and that honesty leads us to come to him with our anger and bitterness and hopelessness, I think we are nearer to him than if we tried to pretend that we were all right, or that we didn’t care.  Even if we claim otherwise, it’s impossible to be angry at God and at the same time believe he isn’t there.  And that’s an opening for him.  It is amazing how he pursues us!


And this is one example where Christianity is really unique in celebrating our humanity.  A lot of faiths say that if we are in pain or we have something to be bitter about, that it’s simply due to a personal failing, or it’s all in our head or something.  Like, Buddhism claims if we simply purge ourselves of all desire for anything, we will realize there’s nothing to be sad or angry about, and our suffering will stop.  Judaism takes a very legalistic perspective about it all. People in Jesus’ day believed that misfortune was punishment for sin, and that if something bad happens to someone, they probably deserved it, or maybe they’re being punished for something their parents did.

God approaches this in his own way though, and he’s always consistent.  I’ve been thinking about this and reading about it lately.  Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned.

First is that God reserves the right to not explain himself.  The book of Job in the bible is all about this.  Job was a man that God had blessed and protected for many years.  Due to a pretty dramatic argument between God and the devil, God allows everything to be taken away from Job.  His family and all his wealth, everything God had given him, and allowed him to be afflicted with great physical pain.  In all this Job always holds on to his integrity, but he is pretty insistent on getting an answer to why it all happened to him, and he knows in his heart he didn’t deserve all this affliction.  After much debate between Job and his friends, God appears to Job and basically says to him, I will not give you an answer.  He says it much more eloquently than this of course.  This seems rather cold until you read it all the way to the end.  In fact it is really indescribable.  Definitely worth a read.

The second thing I noticed is he never makes light of our questions.  When Jesus saw suffering people he was moved and had compassion on them.  When people came to him with doubts he always met them where they were.  Jesus once agreed to meet a very important man in the middle of the night, because he was too afraid to talk to Jesus in the daytime.  He didn’t hold that against him, and he treated the man the same as he would treat anyone else.  He does the same for us.

The common thread in all this is that it’s very important to him that we learn to trust him.  I don’t really understand it, I just know it appears to be very important to him.  The bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  This is a very difficult truth.  He wants us to look at a situation and say, even though I see absolutely no way that I could be rescued, I trust that you will do it.  He wants us to look at an injustice and say, I trust that you have a reason for this, and I’ll ask you to fix it, and wait for you.  He wants us to do the same with our greatest longings, to give them to him and let him guide us toward their fulfillment, even if it’s not the way we envisioned, or quite as quick as we wanted.  This is something I have always struggled with, but it really gives us an idea of how much God cares for us.  He doesn’t really want any part of our life to be lived apart from him.  It’s very freeing to live knowing that he is interested in everything that we do, that all of it matters to him.  He, the God of the universe, is that kind of friend.  This is important to me.

It also raises questions though.  I wish I knew why it even mattered, why he wants that for us, and why he is willing to go to such lengths to cultivate trust in us.  It’s true that it does give a man a certain strength, to know that nothing could ever be as important to him as the one thing that will never change.  God says our faith is more precious than gold.  To him this trust is really so valuable that he is willing to bring us through the fire to get it.  We are his treasure and still he’s willing to let us hurt and be angry and confused, even though he could make everything perfect in the blink of an eye.  This makes me think it must be very important indeed.  I guess we just have to trust him on that.

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