Sunday, February 27, 2011

When You Don't Like God

Have you ever found yourself not liking God? I know this sounds like an almost irreverent question, but I believe if most of us are honest we will at some point go through times when we still love God, but we don’t actually like Him. We don’t like what He is doing—or not doing, so we think.

Have you ever been frustrated over how God is running the universe? Do “natural disasters”—shouldn’t they actually be called “supernatural disasters”—ever disturb you wondering if God somehow gets pleasure in wiping out large groups of people with a hurricane, storm, or other force of “mother nature?”

Or, what about when you claim a biblical promise on prayer, and believe with all your heart that God is going to come through with a miracle of healing, but the person you are praying for ends up dying? If and when this type of thing happens, you probably don’t like God for a season. I have a friend who lost one of his best friends to cancer, and afterwards could not pray for about six months.

I hope I haven’t caused you to stumble by simply asking these questions. Instead, my intent is to help those who are struggling with such issues, because I believe they are far more common than most of us want to admit. Being a fully devoted follower of Christ does not mean we never wrestle with such difficult issues. Instead, it means that we actually do face these struggles head-on and don’t pretend they aren’t there.

King David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), and at times he struggled with such questions as, “Why, O Lord do you reject me and hide your face” (Ps. 88:14); “Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep?” (Ps. 44:23); “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?” (Ps. 6:3). We can establish from his example that having a heart for God does not mean we don’t struggle and question. In fact, sometimes it is because we so deeply love God that we do struggle. If we did not care about the things of God then we would not struggle because the issues in question would not matter to us.

So, what is the answer when such questions trouble us? Faith. We must believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, even when our mind is flooded with unanswered questions. After all, God’s Word says to “lean not on your own understanding” but to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prov. 3:5-6). You see, it is ultimately a heart issue and not a mind issue! God does not promise to answer all of our questions (“the secret things belong to the Lord but the things revealed belong to man”—Dt. 29:29), but He does promise to “never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebr. 13:15) and to be a “very present help in time of need” (Ps. 46:1).

What is faith? “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebr. 11:1). It is that “not seen” part of faith that is difficult, isn’t it? We don’t see something now but we believe in God—that is faith! The “not seen” time may be when we are actually seeing bad things or circumstances that challenge or “test our faith” (Jas. 1:3). I don’t think we talk enough today about this biblical concept of the testing of our faith. A test is something we are put through to determine what we know or how we will respond. If we pass the test we are advanced, but if we fail the test we will either have to retake the test or be sent back in life.

When Jesus was asked about a tragedy that occurred (tower falling upon and killing eighteen persons—Luke 13:4), I find it interesting that instead of giving an answer about why it occurred, He simply used it as an object lesson on repentance and judgment. Perhaps rather than ask, “Why did this happen to me,” we should be asking, “What do You want me to learn from this?” Based on Luke 13:4 when natural disasters take the lives of many people, God would want this to remind us of the final judgment and the need to live with an eternal perspective. I must be willing to not have all the answers. After all, I am not God. I must be willing to accept my human limitations and just trust in what I do know about God. Someone once said, “Don’t doubt in the darkness what God has revealed in the light.”

I must not allow the clouds of questions and doubts about life block the sunlight of what I do know about God. We know far too much about God (i.e. holy, loving, sovereign, faithful, merciful, gracious, powerful, eternal, etc.) to allow the few things we don’t know about Him cause us to stumble or lose faith.

In a wonderful little booklet called “When the lights go out” by Graham Cooke, he says, “Faith depends on one thing—your understanding of the nature of God … It is not essential that we understand everything, but that we trust God in everything” (p. 16, 28). This is why I believe the most important part of the Christian journey is gaining a proper understanding of who God is!

So, when things occur that cause us to question and not like God, it is good to be honest about this, especially with a trusted friend. And at the end of the day we must exercise faith by clinging to the truths of who God is. We must cry out to God in desperate prayer, asking for His help and strength.

The sanctification process in the Christian life is not easy. It is filled with times of doubt and despair. The people God has used the most throughout history have often been sifted, tried, persecuted, and depressed. But in the end, they remained steadfastly trusting in the nature of God.

“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles … A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Ps. 34:6, 19). “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

In the words of the famous Winston Churchill, “Never give up; never give up; never give up!”