We were expecting life to be pretty simple.
High school graduation, maybe a college degree, maybe the family route instead, but all of it falling into place in our early twenties without all that many bumps.
And when heartache started calling instead, when our plans for life folded like a cheap suit and God was nowhere to be seen, some of us just shrugged and walked away.
“If God won’t be there for me, why should I be there for him?”
It wasn’t quite that blase. We still love him…kinda. We certainly believe. We know he exists. We get riled up on his behalf when some atheist starts talking.
But we’re not really on fire for him otherwise.
I don’t mean this as a guilt trip. Please hear me out.
Two problems, I think.
One, we weren’t prepped for suffering. Two, our minds weren’t made up to keep following Him if it came.
I remember realizing that the angsty turn-of-the-century Christian music we all grew up on (Newsboys, Pillar, Thousand Foot Krutch) was great at firing us up for rebellion against the world, but didn’t do much to prep us for suffering. When it came, we were thrown off balance. Our loved ones betrayed us, horrific things happened, things you thought only happen to others. Where was all that in the lyrics to “Jesus Freak”?
If you’re reading these words, and nobody ever really told you as a youngster that the Christian life wasn’t free of suffering, then I’m indignant on your behalf. You deserved better. You deserved the truth. When the really unfair life events started rolling in – the ones that left you going, “How was I supposed to know how to deal with this?” – that omission hurt you. You deserved better than to be blindsided as you were.
But had we known it was coming…would we have set our faces to follow Him anyway?
Family slipped my grasp when I was seventeen. Not “my family”, because none of them died. But “family” – the togetherness, refuge, dreams, hopes. Things had been getting better. Then it all turned against us in some nasty, debilitating ways.
I stuck with church (though don’t let me overstate my performance) thanks to divinely well-placed mentors and friends. But I realized a few years ago that I’d only really deferred my final verdict on God until I got family back. Some deep opinion on God was reserved until God made up for my past.
And when it finally occurred to me a few years ago that this might not happen, I found a part of me inside that was prepared to ditch God.
Our ditchings aren’t always total or explicit. That’s why they escape our self-scrutiny. It’s more like a sigh, a letting-go of a few things here and there, until we look up and we’re a world away from Him.
A mentor called me on it one day. “I feel that you’re just poised to go, ‘See? God is against me’ if you don’t get what you want.”
I resisted the idea at first because we all push back against such stark call-outs when they’re put into words.
But she was right. Part of me wanted to. A kind of passive-aggressive “I want an explanation for all this!”
By God’s grace, I can say that my mind is now made up on whether I will follow God wholeheartedly. No matter what he does or doesn’t give me, I will remain his. “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways before Him.” (Job 15:13)
Something in you goes, Good grief, why? What has he done to earn that from you?
A lot of reasons. One, because I’ve learned a few things about just how far our dreams and hopes will go towards saving us (i.e. not that far). Two, because I got tired of living with a pended verdict (I mean that facetiously – we do not judge God). It’s just better to live with one’s mind made up. A sort of settled firmness.
But most of all, because he is worthy.
God doesn’t have to avert suffering or fulfill our dreams to be worthy of our faith. His own Son didn’t get that. In truth, the Father has already given us far more than we could ever have dared desire: the Cross and the Empty Tomb. And much more beyond that. His love, his delight, his justice, and his power to redeem those life events.
This makes him worthy.
It’s not too late for you. No matter how far away you’ve walked, with quiet resentment simmering, he will take back the humble heart in an instant. I believe wholeheartedly, with my own experience and the full faith and credit of God’s Word, that his love is still offered to you.
As long as you draw breath, you can still make up your mind.
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