2 Corinthians 12:7(b)-9 You Might Not Get What You Want (But It May Be What You Need)

1 05 2013

anguish

“Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power  is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7(b)-9 (NRSV)

Sometimes God’s answer is no.  Even when it doesn’t make sense.  Especially when it doesn’t make sense.

Every little kid can remember what seemed to be lofty, important prayers at the time, raised up to God-

Please make the other kids stop tormenting me

Please don’t let my grandmother die

Please bring my dog home, she didn’t mean to run away

but it seemed like God didn’t hear.

bullying

The other kids didn’t stop tormenting me, at least not until I befriended people who made sure that my former tormentors got theirs.  My grandmother died, and my dog never came home.  Where was God in that?  Is God all-knowing, all-powerful and all that?  Does God enjoy playing games with pitiful, helpless humanity?

A better example of what some might see as the callousness or capriciousness of God happened to my sister over 15 years ago.  She was happily married to the love of her life.  They had two beautiful children.  They loved God and belonged to a small, rural Southern Baptist church that was somewhat close to their farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  They had an idyllic life and seemed to be set up for years of happiness.

Until the ice storm.  For whatever reason my brother-in-law decided to brave the storm and go ahead and take the kids to the sitter and go to work.  It was his last mistake.  There was a railroad track just down the road from their house.  The ice storm was so severe and visibility was so bad he didn’t see the train in time to stop.  He was killed instantly, and my niece (age four) was sitting in the front seat.  She died from her injuries later that afternoon.  My nephew was only 11 months old and was in a car seat.  He ended up with only minor bruising and a slight concussion.

Her life would never be the same.

I asked more than once, God, do you exist at all?  To her credit, and by God’s grace, my sister held on to Him more tightly.  She never lost her faith, but I sure questioned mine.

It took a very long time for me to get an answer to that question, or at least to accept what God said to His prophet Jeremiah:

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”- Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV)

Jeremiah didn’t have an easy go of things either.  Not only did he see what was coming, he had to broadcast the bad news as well.  Jeremiah didn’t have a pleasant or easy life, but he was greatly used by God.

The great philosopher and theologian Mick Jagger put it another way:

“You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

You can try sometimes, you just might find

You get what you need-“

mick-jagger

We look at our plans in the short term and in the context of a finite, linear world.  God makes His plans in the context of an infinite, all encompassing universe.  We have no way of seeing things from His perspective.   Just as a toddler thinks parents are being cruel with the constant shouts of “NO” or “Don’t Touch!,” sometimes God’s people feel that frustration with our Heavenly Father when He has to say no.  We aren’t able to see God’s aim in our situations, especially when He needs to tell us:

This is for your own good

I need to get you on a different path

I have lessons for you that you need to learn

I’m not letting your ego get in My way

I’m generally not a good one with having a dependence mentality, but the fact is we are all completely dependent upon God for everything, for even something as simple and taken for granted as breath.

breathe

I’m not going to pretend that I understand the existence and the purpose of evil.  I struggle with the concept that if God is omnipotent and omnipresent, He has to be in, with and through what we would call good as well as in, with and through what we call evil or tragic.

I have an equally hard time with those who say that God is only in the good things of life and not the bad things.  If this is so, then why did Jesus weep when he learned His friend Lazarus was dead?  If God is only in the sunshine and flowers, does it mean anything in the 23rd Psalm when the psalmist asserts that God’s rod and staff comfort him in the valley of the shadow of death?

I don’t understand.  I don’t claim to know why evil exists and tragedy happens, but I thank God that He is there in the midst of it.





Hebrews 7:25 Jesus Christ of All Dominion

26 04 2013

jesus compassion

 

“Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 (NRSV)

Currently I’m working on a further foray into Molinism and the Lutheran Confessions.  The Molinist approach to soteriology addresses the subjects of God’s sovereignty, omnipresence and omnipotence in a bit more depth than the Confessions, but doesn’t contradict the Confessions in any way that I can discern, at least not so far.  I’m not a theologian, so I have to trust and pray as I dig, as well as engage in critical thought.  Faith does not require one to check one’s brain at the door, but to be open to being informed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit in study and prayer.

Proverbs153

I am consistently put in awe of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God.  I know that it’s hard to wrap one’s consciousness around God being everywhere, in and through everything, at all places and times, at the same time.  Yet Scripture upholds the completely pervasive totality of God.  I don’t claim to understand the mechanics of the cosmos- I’m baffled at any sort of higher math beyond basic accounting, percentages and ratios.  I  understand the mechanics of the Creator even less than I understand the mechanics behind His creation.  Yet I have faith that He is Who He says He is, and that He continually makes intercession for fallible and fallen sinners like me.

Then Job answered the Lord: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6 (NRSV)

In literature and drama there is a device called deus ex machina: literally, “the god in the machine,” which writers use to save their characters from impossible situations.  The Indiana Jones movies make use of this device quite frequently- someone makes an impossible save at the very last moment, and saves the hero from certain death.

milling machine

Old machinery is fascinating to look at, but as far as there being any sort of sentient entities living in them (though the concept of malevolent, sentient machines makes for a good horror novel, i.e. Stephen King’s Christine) I’m not buying it.

Yet God is thoroughly present in and through His creation (and by proxy one would even have to include man-made machinery) which makes the reality of evil even more difficult to understand.  God is God, but He doesn’t always move in with that last minute save like in the Indiana Jones movies- at least not in the physical world that we can see in these temporary bodies. He left the apostle Paul with a thorn in his side, and Paul didn’t understand that either.

Yet God is the One in control.  Especially when we don’t understand.

We get a little bit of insight into the incredible scope of God’s involvement with creation on the most intimate levels in His discourse with Job. (Job 38-42)

God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4)  Of course, Job wasn’t anywhere around, because he hadn’t been created yet.  I know I question God (and I do it often) but there are many times He answers me in the same way He answered Job:  “Where were you?  Who are you to criticize Me?”

lord-answering-job-out-of-the-whirlwind-blake

I don’t think God has a problem with us asking questions, but just as He expected of Job, we have to be prepared for answers we may not like or that we may not understand.  We are compelled to seek understanding, but also to embrace the mystery at the same time.

The Gospel of John explains the Who behind creation and the infinite dominion of Christ most eloquently:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:1-5 (NRSV)