In my last post I stated that, “The key to resting in the Lord is being able to trust Him, knowing that His love is the promise of deliverance.” I talked about how the love of God is the promise of deliverance through our suffering rather than out of it, but this raises the question, “Then what am I actually trusting God for?”
What good is it to be the Beloved of Jehovah if nothing changes? If I don’t change?
If the love of God is not going to change my human experience, if it’s not going to actually shelter me and protect me, transform me and sanctify me, then what exactly am I trusting in? If being delivered through suffering can include death, then everyone can say that they will “make it through” one way or another. What good then is the love of God?
In her article, 4 Questions That Show God Is Highly Unlikely, Valerie Tarico says:
“Does there exist a god who is relevant to our lives—whose power we can tap or favor we can curry in order to live happier or longer, to attain peace and love, and transcend life’s hardships? Is there a higher power that can help us to win the internal struggle against immediate gratifications and short-sighted selfishness that put our long term wellbeing and that of other people at risk?”
We may not want to say it that way, that we’re trying to curry God’s favor, but when you strip everything else away, that’s what we’re after isn’t it? We come to God for so many reasons, seeking Him for everything from prosperity and free parking spaces to holiness and spiritual transformation, but at the end of the day we come to Him seeking.
“[W]hen we commit our lives, our money, our energy to a god, we expect something back,” Tarico says, and she’s right. Why do we tithe except to receive blessings back pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing? Why do we make our requests known except to receive peace and assurance?
I’m compelled to ask, “What part of my relationship with God has not been about what He can do for me?” I can’t remember the last time I drew near to Him simply to be in His presence. Even coming to worship is coming with an agenda, seeking a certain experience.
It all makes me think of a college kid who leaves his home to attend school far away. Things are going well and he gets caught up in his new lifestyle. Weekly calls home turn into monthly calls home, which are soon gone altogether. It doesn’t take long before the kid is only calling home when he needs money. Of course it’s noble to ask for money to travel home for the holidays, right? Dad will appreciate such a request, right?
Once upon a time, I read this anecdote:
A college kid wrote home, “Dear Dad, No mon, no fun. Your son.”
The father replied, “Dear Son, Too bad, so sad. Your dad.”
I can imagine the father longing for the intimacy he once shared with his son. He doesn’t want to simply fund his son’s endeavors, he wants to be a part of them. But how easily the son forgets his old longing to please his father. Those days when he came to his father like a child, wanting nothing so much as to hear him say, “I love you, Son, and I’m proud of you.”
Is this what I have done to my relationship with God when I plead, “What good are your promises?” C.S. Lewis is right when he says that the Scriptures are full of promises untapped because we are too caught up in our own little worlds, but is that the only reason I draw near to God? For His promises? For what he can do for me?
Tarico perceptively writes, “[W]e need a god who cares how we think and feel and behave because otherwise we have no way to influence what God does…It is not actually about God, per se; it is about us.”
What if the premise of my entire relationship with God is wrong? Or, if not wrong, at least shortsighted. Perhaps part of this theosis journey is learning how to seek God, not for what He offers me, but simply for who He is. Lofty words, but how might my relationship with God realistically change if I truly sought Him without any expectation that He would fix me or bless me, but simply to be in His presence?
(And if I’m treating God this way, then how am I treating other people around me?