I wonder about God a lot. I used to wonder if he existed, but since I got that settled (to my complete satisfaction), my wonder is now of a different sort. “Wonder” itself has a number of connotations, some of which are part of the kind of wonder I have about God. There’s wonder that includes some frustration with it, another is more of a curious sort of wonder, and then there’s the kind that connotes total marvel. My wondering about God includes all three.
To be honest, sometimes my wonder about him is of the frustrated sort. It’s when he acts in a way I don’t understand or appreciate in the immediate that I wonder about the wisdom of his decisions. I often get that sorted out in my mind, but even when I don’t, I shelve it for the time being and continue trusting him in spite of my frustrations. At other times my wondering is more of a spiritual inquisitiveness. Sometimes I can be annoyingly curious about God’s Word and his ways. I wonder what a certain passage of the Bible means or I am curious to understand an action he took or decided not to take. The last sense in which I wonder about God is the sense in which I’m amazed and blown away about God! What a “Wonder” he is! When I think about it, this might not be so different from the other two types of wonder, and might, in actuality, include them both. That he’s “wonderful,” (which is an interesting word when you think about it, since we’re the ones who are full of wonder) can both be frustrating and arouse my curiosity.
The posts in this category include musings of all three sorts of wonder. If you read them you’ll notice frustration in my voice, which I trust comes short of petulant unbelief or any disrespect for God. You’ll probably also pick up that I’m still very curious about the God in whom I believe. I certainly don’t have all the answers about him, and sometimes it feels like I have even less than I used to have. I want to know more about what he’s like – how he thinks, what he feels, why he does what he does and doesn’t do what he chooses not to do. And then hopefully you’ll see (and catch for yourself) some of the marvel, the increasing amazement that I have about the God of the Bible!
“God himself works in our souls, in their deepest depths, taking increasing control as we are progressively willing to be prepared for his wonder.” Thomas Kelly
Speaking of “wonder,” I wonder a lot––mostly about God. I used to wonder if he existed, but since I got that settled to my complete satisfaction forty-five years ago, my wonder is now of a different sort.
“Wonder” itself has a number of connotations. There’s the wonder that involves frustration, another is more of a curious sort, and then there’s the kind that connotes unreserved marvel. My wondering about God includes all three at different times. Continue reading →
No, I mean really. Imagine it. Take a minute, but not too much more than that, to think about what it would feel like if God didn’t love you.
I bet you’ve never heard this before, especially from someone who normally pleads with people to know that he does love them (which, of course, he does)! I know it doesn’t sound particularly edifying and I admit it isn’t ordinarily the best use of your imagination. We’re usually encouraged to meditate on the opposite; that’s why you’ll have to flex your imagining muscles to do this. But consider the possible benefit of momentarily envisioning what is not true in order to assess how much you genuinely believe what is.
Should you be willing to go along with my quirky experiment, I suggest that you identify and temporarily feel the feelings that go along with imagining a God who doesn’t love you. If you don’t feel anything different than you normally feel, consider what condition this might indicate. It could be a sign that your default is to think that God actually doesn’t think much of you. You get the logic, right? If it’s no stretch for you to imagine him as unloving in general or that he loves other people, but not you, the results of my bizarre exercise might signify that one or the other of these is how you actually believe. I say, “actually believe,” because our emotions don’t usually follow what we say we believe or even what we think we believe but what we truly believe. Continue reading →
The first three gospels record the story about how Jesus fell asleep in the storm-tossed boat while the disciples feared for their lives. “Don’t you care if we die?! Do something!” It occurred to me that after he quelled the squall in the sea, he turned to address the storm in the boat…
“You of little faith. Why are you so afraid?” (Matthew)
“Do you still have no faith?” (Mark)
“Where is your faith?” (Luke)
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately, and how we’re supposed to aim it at God (“Have faith in God” – Mark 11) and not necessarily getting something from God. I’m wondering if this is what the sermon in the storm is really about – – – aiming our faith at him, and not so much at getting what we want from him (i.e. calming the storm so we can get to the other side). In other words, I wonder if he’s saying, “Why are you afraid? I’m with you on the boat (and in your life), and whatever happens that won’t change, so you don’t have to be afraid. I thought you had faith in me, but where is it? If you trusted me, you wouldn’t have to be so afraid, because I’ll be with you in any circumstance.” I used to think his point was, “You should’ve trusted me to calm the storm…” But it seems to me now that the punch line of the sermon is, “You should’ve aimed your trust at me, and whatever occurs, I’ll help you through it.” Most of the sermons I’ve heard (and given myself) have been to encourage people to trust God for the miracle of getting them to the other side of the lake, but I think his point was to get them to trust God through whatever happens. Do you see the difference? One is having faith for something the other is faith inSomeone. Continue reading →
In Parts 1 & 2 I’ve been talking about the “suffer-well” versus the “get-well” options for the Jesus follower who is going through difficult times. The conundrum is – am I supposed to endure this pain or escape it? It’s near blasphemy to some people to think that God would purposely leave any of his beloved in their pain and ask them to suffer with faith and courage. Others have a theological presupposition that precludes the expectation of pretty much any supernatural intervention to alleviate our suffering. Denominations have begun over such a debate, and I have no aspiration to settle the argument. My purpose here is to challenge those who languish in-between those two options in a place I call the “Mediocre Middle.” Continue reading →
In Part 1 I talked about the tension between having faith to “suffer well” and faith to “get well.” Sometimes God has his reasons for miraculously making us well and at other times he gives us the strength to suffer well. The same God who said to Moses, “I am the Lord who heals you,” also said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (to endure his “thorn in the flesh”). Both options require faith. Then I coined the phrase “the mediocre middle,” which is a place between the two “wells”in which many Christians languish lazily – a pitiful spiritual location, which requires little-to-no faith at all. People who live in the “mediocre middle” don’t trust God for the grace to either make them well or to help them suffer well. They’ve lost touch with the adventure of trusting God for whatever he brings. Continue reading →
A few years ago, during the blackest and most heinous time of my life I was asking the Lord what he wanted me to do about it. I didn’t hear an audible voice but I did have these two words come to my mind (ones I’d never thought of in just this way): “Suffer well!” It wasn’t really what I’d expected, and not at all what I’d hoped for. “Get well!” or “Be well!” (even “Well, well!”) would’ve been a much better boost to my bleak morale. But since God isn’t in the business of running around trying to make me feel good, even though I didn’t completely understand it, I registered the directive – “Suffer well!”
Recently I was in a prayer meeting with some friends and we were seeking God mostly for people’s healing. I found myself musing about how sometimes God gives us grace to get well and at other times his grace empowers us to suffer well. It’s not always one way or the other. He, being God all by himself, gets to decide which one of the two (or some facsimile of them) would best fulfill his purpose, bring him the most glory at the time, and benefit us somehow at least in the long run. Continue reading →