Kick God When it Hurts

21 07 2014

If you are not anchored in the goodness of God, you will lower your theology to match your pain. 

– Christa Black Gifford

If you don’t know her story, look her up on the Internet. Not long ago, her baby was born premature. She and her husband had a brief forty minutes with their child before the veil between this world and the next was opened, and their little one was ushered through.

I have been alive long enough, and gone through enough painful circumstances to know the truth of her statement, and to have learned that when I am hurting it is important to remember that God is good. He took care of me in the past, and He will do so again.

In the early years, I blamed God for causing the pain. I was angry that He did not intervene. Someone was at fault, and in my book the “buck stopped with Him.” For a couple of decades, I got my gray matter all bunched up trying to figure out free will versus God’s sovereignty.

Although I was well acquainted with my Bible, having read it through several times, I missed the verse in James 1 that states:

“Every good and perfect gift comes from God, with Whom there is no shadow of change.”

As a child, church attendance was a rare occurrence. I’m not sure if my parents knew that they were open between Easter and Christmas!

When I looked for a church to attend after a drinking bout (I was 12, and it seemed like the logical thing to do), the one I chose was big on putting “the fear of God” into us. It was a manipulative tactic to get us to behave and not make God look bad.

Since my step-dad was an alcoholic, his mood swings were unpredictable. Mom, my brother, and I did our best to avoid Dad’s wrath.

As is common, I equated God’s character with that of my dad and male spiritual leaders.

What none of them ever taught me was the goodness of God.

Thus, when pain came along, I believed it to be punishment, or because God didn’t care about me. In fact, they taught me that God was ever watching, waiting for me to blow it so He could slap me down.

I was unlovable. The fault was mine.

This put me on the treadmill of works. Do more, try harder, be better.

Pain was stacked upon pain. Nothing I did made a difference in how “God” treated me.

I had lowered my theology to match my pain.

What a gracious and patient Father we have, though. He stuck with me while I was misrepresenting Him to the world. “Be a Christian – you, too, can enjoy a God who whops you when He’s in a bad mood.” (I didn’t have any ‘takers,’ making me a failure at evangelism, too!)

He continued to pour His love on me, and to slowly correct my understanding of His character, His nature.

This last year, although I finally ‘get’ it, He flooded me with His love through various acts of kindness, and words of affirmation. By Christmas there was no doubt in my mind that I am genuinely loved, and without conditions. It’s a wonderful place to be!

As you know, if you’ve read my sparse posts this year, we’ve been in a season of training. “Wax on, wax off,” “sand the floor,” and all that. It felt like my Father was teaching me “muscle memory” – but I didn’t know why.

Today, I see that my hunch was correct. I did need to be able to move quickly and without thinking through each move beforehand in order to fend off the blows of the enemy.

I had a “tsunami” crash down upon me without warning. Most of the “structures” lay in ruins. One thing is certain…the Foundation remains solid and intact!

The enemy is attacking with a vengeance, throwing lie after lie at me. My earlier training is paying off, though, and few of them are causing additional damage.

Because God was determined to teach me that He is good – that He has no dark side – I am free to trust Him now.

“Why?” is a futile question when standing in the midst of wreckage. Once blame has been affixed, what changed?

“What?” is a better one. What do I do now? What is the take-away from this?

…Or “How?” How will You bring good from this? (For He will!)

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

– Isaiah 61:3

and

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust

– Joel 2:25

and my favorite:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

– Romans 8:28

For most of my life, I’ve “kicked God” when I was hurt…which, in fact, cut me off from my only true source of comfort and hope. In the next post I’d like to explore this topic a bit more.

Thanks for taking time to read!





So What?

3 12 2013

“The absence of intense desire is a sure sign of God’s absence from the heart. To abate fervor is to retire from God. Lack of heart and lack of heat are two things God loathes.”

-E.M. Bounds

The current series on Obstacles to Intimacy with God ends with apathy and boredom.

The opposite of love is not hate…

…it is apathy.

Any counselor knows that if a married couple fights like cats and dogs there is hope for their marriage.

If, on the other hand, one or the other doesn’t seem to care, but is merely “going through the motions,” the relationship is doomed.

While this seems odd, so long as their emotions are still engaged, their hearts are still involved. Let one withdraw his or her heart, and there’s nothing left to work with.

It was for this reason that Jesus called out the church of Laodocea.  He said that their lukewarm attitude toward Him made Him want to puke!

Their relationship with God was going nowhere

and they could not care less.

They weren’t at odds with Him, but neither were they tender toward Him.

It’s a bit scary to realize that:

an atheist who hates God is in better shape than an apathetic Christian!

Many Christians that I know today came from a position of strong opposition to God.

What causes us to pull away from God?

Generally, our withdrawal has to do with something that didn’t go our way. We were hurt by someone, our health failed, or our finances fell apart.

“If God loves me, then why did He let … happen to me?”

Did you ever wonder why we blame God for our problems? We live in a fallen world. That anything good ever happens should astonish us!

Once we’ve removed ourselves, we get comfortable with being distant. The whole “God thing” didn’t work, so why bother?

“Benefits” to distance between us begin to seem apparent:

We don’t have to change. In His presence is where we are transformed.

Change challenges our judgments and assumptions, but we’re happy with our mini kingdoms and don’t want to give up the “power” to pronounce judgment on others.

Transformation demands a certain amount of instability. Transformation can be very uncomfortable. We like things tied up in neat little packages. We prefer predictability. Life with God is certainly not always predictable!

We feel safe when there is distance because we know He can be wild – and we are scared of how He may (or may not) respond to us.

Those to whom we are closest can hurt us the deepest. Being close to God smarts sometimes – especially when He pulls back the veil of denial and we see things about ourselves that we don’t like…and don’t especially care to change.

Also, uncertain of what He might ask us to do, we stay away.

“If I got serious about God, He would probably send me to Africa.”

(I used to worry about this, myself.)

Good news! Unless you have a burning desire to go to Africa, I doubt that’s on His agenda for you.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.

In this way love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in the world we are like Him.

There is no fear in love.

But perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:14-18).

How do we get back on track?

First, we recognize that we have an issue with God.

Then, we confess it and ask for His help in settling the matter.

Once we’ve identified what’s wrong, we replace the lies we’ve believed, or renounce any unholy agreements we’ve made (I’ll never…), and replace them with truth. We ask the Lord to make Himself real to us, and to speak to us about the issue at hand. We ask Him to show us what we need to know or do to clear the lines of communication.

We expect a response! James tells us that if we ask without expecting Him to answer, we won’t receive anything (chapter 1).

We trust that we’ve been heard, and that the answer is YES. God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. What we’ve asked is in accordance with His will. This is a prayer that we can confidently ask “in Jesus’ name.”

Father,

We live in a world where distractions abound, as do opportunities to be hurt or offended. I’m not sure why we blame every unpleasant thing that comes my way on You, but we do. Talk about being unfair!

Where there is something between us, please make it known…then show us what to do about it. We can be a little slow sometimes.

Light the fire within us once again. Help us to burn brightly with love for You.

Thank You for making Your will known concerning our relationship with You. It is for this reason alone that we can confidently ask You to draw us closer, and do so

In Jesus’ name.

Amen!

*****

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

This section is about obstacles to intimacy. It begins here: A Clogged Conduit