Saturday, August 28, 2010

God Knows Best

More time than usual has passed between posts, because an electrical storm last Monday “fried” my cable connection and has left my online work dependent on the wireless services of public venues. Annoying, to say the least. I rarely work offsite; I can live very well without the bother of unplugging and reattaching a half dozen cords, the strain of packing around a ten-pound laptop on a stiff back, the hum of public activity intruding on my concentration, and the inherent hassles of either the coffee shop (with its sense of obligation to spend money I don’t have on caffeine I don’t need) or the library (with its increasingly limited hours).

“Limited hours” may be the greatest bugaboo. However much lip service we give to the Scriptural commands to “wait on the Lord” and “be still,” the conviction that it’s productivity that counts remains fixed in our minds. There’s a Christian song with a chorus something like, “It’s not in trying, but in trusting,/It’s not in running, but in resting,/It’s not in planning, but in praying,/That we find the strength of the Lord.” Biblically sound, but who really lives as if we believe it? If you’re anything like me, even prayer easily becomes a performance issue: how many hours a day, with what ratio of praise to requests, should one pray to achieve a Spirit-filled life?

Wayne Jacobsen, author of
He Loves Me!: Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection and coeditor of bestselling Christian novel The Shack, tells of a time he was invited to serve a brief interim pastorate: “We’ve heard that you really emphasize God’s grace and the cross,” the church elders told him.

“That’s true,” he replied, “but before you decide that’s what you want, I’d like you to answer two questions. First, how much of what gets done at your church, gets done because someone would feel guilty about not doing it?”

The elders exchanged glances, chuckled, and replied, “About ninety percent!”

“So, are you prepared to accept that if your congregation fully understands God’s grace, ninety percent of what’s currently getting done at your church may stop?”

Dead silence.

Most Christians harbor the same fear as those elders: that if we give too much attention to God Himself, if we allow ourselves to trust that He will not be angry if we stop striving to do all we can, we will end up getting nothing done. Serving out of love rather than duty, let alone believing that the former is ultimately the route of greater accomplishment, has always been a stumbling block for human nature. It didn’t take long for the “striving trap” to infect even the Church; St. Paul wrote Galatians, perhaps chronologically the first book of the New Testament, largely to battle that enemy. It didn’t come close to winning the war.

Perhaps the real reason we get angry with God for not preventing our problems is that problems interrupt our work and interfere with our striving. My online difficulties started just when I thought I might finally have an effective priority-based work schedule, and I’ve had enough similar experiences to convince me it’s more than coincidence—that some angel or demon has an ongoing assignment to strike at my weakest point, my aversion to interruptions and disappointment, whenever I seem on the edge of a significant reduction in those annoyances.

To some degree, everyone’s most hated troubles have to do with the failure of human striving, whether to get to an appointment on time or to “positive-think” oneself into a life where everything always goes “right.” All our bitterness at our failures, all our frustration over glitches and roadblocks, has its roots in the idea that God is either punishing us for something He won’t show us how to remedy, or doesn’t care about our happiness at all.

The apex of spiritual maturity is neither always doing the right thing, nor the absence of grief or anger in any circumstance, nor understanding the “whys” of it all. It’s trusting that
God understands the “whys”—and that He will make full use of all circumstances to finish the good work He began in us.

This life will bring its troubles
And unexpected pain;
Some days are bright with sunshine,
But some are full of rain;
Whatever roads we travel,
As we face every test,
Let us remember always:
In all things, God knows best.

God gives the perfect balance
Of happiness and tears;
He marks our mortal limits
And sets each lifetime’s years;
Though we seek wealth and wellness—
It seems the obvious guess
That these are good things for us—
Remember: God knows best.

One may grow strong through hardship
Or through prosperity;
And I can judge no other
By God’s best plan for me.
But when, in realms eternal,
Our souls at last find rest,
We all shall sing in chorus,
“Praise God: He knew the best!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. God has gifted you with writing. I look forward to reading more of your postings. What a blessing you are.