Thursday, December 22, 2011
What kind of God?
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” ― A.W. Tozer
In my recovery I've had the privilege of much more time than usual to spend reading and praying and searching my heart. One of the greatest struggles I have had since a child is reconciling theology taught to me from a young age, some very right but taught in a wrong spirit and some clearly wrong, with my own reason (always a minefield) and also the pull of humanism and all kinds of other religions that sell a different God than the Bible and TRUTH. Yes, a dirty word, but I'll say it. The above quote has been critical to me this past year as I have grappled with the question asked for centuries, "What kind of God could allow . . .?" You can pretty much fill in the blank. There are so many really hideous things happening in the world today. As God has enlarged our community through Danica's illness and mine we are open to even more suffering than I ever thought I could bear. When applied personally to our lives it leaves some people who don't know God watching from afar scratching their heads. How can they have endured so much pain and loss for so long and still say it comes from the hand of a LOVING God who has planned it all from the beginning? How can they bless His name and give Him praise for even all these bad things?
In my own Advent worship I've been reading the different gospel accounts of Christ's birth. Like many passages in the Bible we seem to gravitate to and focus on parts of the stories that make our hearts swell with emotion. Every one loves a choir singing of peace on earth, goodwill towards men and a baby that doesn't cry. The miracle of the birth of Christ has been read through time, embellished and romanticized, sung about in carols and celebrated by many who never really desire to understand the rest of the God who WAS the very human baby Jesus born in the manger so long ago. Mary is celebrated. Joseph was the best "baby daddy" ever. The wise men and the shepherds are heroes. Truly, there was so much more going on there that night than the nativity scene we set in our homes and altars.
As I was reading Matthew's telling of the Christmas story I faultered a little when I got to the section "Massacre of the Innocents" in chapter 2, verses 16-18. I knew it was there, but only because Herod is generally told as the "bad guy" in this epic, and He wanted Jesus dead in the off chance he really was going to become the literal "King of the Jews." I don't remember anyone ever preaching about these verses in an expository way or focusing on them at all. I think we always just kind've stop when Joseph whisks Mary and Jesus away for safe keeping in Egypt and then fast forward to Christ's "idyllic" childhood in the carpenter shop once they return. Not much else is told to us until we get into the thick of His earthly ministry leading up to the greatest sacrifice, His death on the cross for our sins.
Here's the verses so you don't have to run and look them up:
"Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 'A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'"
What kind of God needed to allow every other baby boy to be murdered to fulfill His saving plan? If Christ's death on the cross was such a great sacrifice then what was this? Every single family with a baby boy two and under in the region had their sons snatched from their homes and brutally killed. We start in Matthew and separate the Old Testament law from the New Testament and grace. There are so many beautiful truths about how the saving work of Christ changed how we access God and how we are forgiven. Praise God it is finished. There is no more need for continual shedding of blood and sacrifices on man made altars. So why this great sacrifice of all these lives as soon as the Savior finally enters the world? Is it just to fulfill a prophesy? If so, why? Do I really want my God to be a God who says, "Because I said so." If I didn't have the light and the grace of the New Testament would I believe in the Old Testament God? Here's the thing. He never changed. The person and work of Christ did not change the Alpha and Omega. He was and is and is to come. He gives and He takes away. He wrote this story from beginning to end before any of it was spoken into existence. Blessed be His name.
So what comes to mind when I think of God? What kind of God needed to allow the physical pain, emotional suffering and loss and financial ruin to our family these past four years? If He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for every single one of our sins why would He let us be hurt this way for so long?
If you read back to the beginning posts on this blog you see so many of these questions written and wrestled out loud by Dan and I. The doctrine of God's providence was something we knew but had never been asked to believe in like this. The answer is simple. God is God. His ways are so much higher than ours. His purposes are always about the soul. We see in a mirror dimly what will someday be shown clearly to us face to face. We will know what is already known by Him. We are so much more than flesh and blood. We are made in His image. Who are we to travel back to Eden and believe the lie we could ever be as wise as the one who made us, gave us breath and chose us to be redeemed? Every single bit of this is more than we deserve. It is all grace and we walk by faith.
In my very first post about Danica's Chiari diagnosis I ended with a quote from Oswald Chambers. I committed it to memory and have returned to it a hundred times in this walk. It is the answer to the question that still nags on days like today when my family seems so far and pain is still oh so present and the future seems unclear. What kind of God?
"Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason — a life of knowing him who calls us to go."
As I sit at the manger and think and pray about a new year I am asking for God to turn my heart and mind from the uncertainty and fear of what could come next and from asking the questions about how in the world could we ever really be healed and restored to just wanting to KNOW HIM MORE, listen to His call and go where He leads. It really is that simple and beautiful.
Posted by Monica Kaye at 5:18 PM