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Over Chinese food my friend Joe asked me if my faith in God was in tact. I was getting divorced, broke my neck, and was just diagnosed with cancer. He was concerned for me and wanted to know how to best be a support to me in my dark night of the soul. I’d loved Jesus for nearly forty years and had no intention of breaking up with him now. But I told him that though I didn’t question God’s character, I wondered if he had very “good judgment.” I’d been Joe’s friend and pastor for many years, and he wasn’t used to hearing me talk quite that way, but since he asked, I thought it best to answer honestly. With flushed face he promised to pray for me, which I obviously needed and gratefully welcomed. That horrific season of my life did alter a lot of my thinking about God – and as far as I can tell – for the better. You can be the judge of that yourself if you decide to read on.
I now believe that though God has good judgment he is “inconsistent.” I should qualify this. He’s surely “consistent” with himself, within his own character. He always acts like himself. It’s not that he doesn’t keep his word or that he lacks integrity in any way. In fact, there is no one in his universe with more integrity than him. I’m convinced that the God of the Bible is completely consistent with the way he’s always been, but my point is that he doesn’t act as uniformly as I had previously believed. So unless I slip, I no longer say things like, “God always…” or “God never…” unless it has to do with his character (i.e. he always loves, he never lies, etc.). But when it comes to the expression of his character, how he acts; in my current way of thinking he’s not as predictable as I had once thought. In fact, I think he’s downright unpredictable.
I believe that I can count on him to always be himself, always act like God acts, consistent with his character and wisdom. But how he expresses this good character of his – what he does as a God of integrity – is up to him and his good judgment at the time. Let me unpack this a little bit.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us… that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29
“Have faith in God.” Mark 11:22
“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33
“Be strong and let us fight bravely for our God… The Lord will do what is good in his sight.” 1 Chronicles 19:13
To my mind, it’s more an adolescent faith than an adult one to think that God can be predicted. I’m sure we think we know more than we actually do when it comes to God. The “secret things” about him infinitely outnumber the “things revealed.” I wonder if we’re ready to concede that our faith is more founded upon what we think we know about the ways that God works or in the “magic” of our spiritual spells, rather than in the wild and unpredictable Person that he is. Jesus told us simply to “Have faith in God,” which I take to mean that we’re to trust in him as a Person. He wants us to believe in the God who is, not the one we wish he was.
God always acts like himself.
It’s immature to try to “program” him or to set “defaults” for him to abide by. He seems resistant to our “preferences” that we try to establish for him. He warned us that his paths can’t be “traced out,” and his mind cannot be completely known; and yet we tend to want a God that we can, if not control, at least calculate.