Long ago, I listened to a remarkably holy man, a cancer patient, sharing a conversation with God.
It was a naked, piercing, and heavy testimony of the “when you’ve finally just had it” variety. During a morning quiet time in his big easy chair, he is praying and listening for God and suddenly (for are not these things rather sudden?) just explodes into venting about the story God is writing for him. It’s not just the disease. It’s the ongoing changes and the endless appointments and the constant vigilance and the social misunderstandings and the lack of closure and the shame and fear that attend. All his anger and helplessness and isolation explodes before the throne in frustration. He lets God know.
And the man described hearing God reply, “I understand you don’t like the story. How do you feel about the Author?”
It cut me to the quick – one of two things he said that did so. Not a pleasant reveal, but an unmistakably holy one. A divine refocusing.
For though I dared not compare my life’s difficulties to cancer, the question was stil one that I had not wanted to face. For I could tell you exactly how my journey (e.g. my family history, my weird and glitchy personality) has made me feel about God.
The other thing he said was:
“I could just hear the clarity coming to myself, and I finally said it: ‘What I really don’t like is, I’m now living a life where I need you, God, on a day-to-day basis, just to get through it. And I don’t like being desperately needy for you, God.'”
That was even worse.
Arresting. Convicting. Fatal.
For it bears not just on our past and present, but on our future – by throwing a glaring spotlight on our desires, our hopes and dreams, and revealing our motive behind it all.
We do not want to be dependent on God.
We just want things to work out. We want it easy. So many of our fervent hopes are really truthfully centered there – achieving a life where we can just rest and trust our surroundings and go on with our day. The last thing we want is an existence spent inching from hour to hour weighed down by life’s sorrows, our hopes still out of reach, reeling from blows that just will not heal even after years, clinging to life only through God – whispered prayers, the Word, the spiritual disciplines late at night.
No thanks, God. We just want a nice little life.
Perhaps that is why God won’t give it to us.
Perhaps we should be glad he doesn’t. The “have it your way” response is never actually good news (Psalm 81:12), despite how much we’d secretly like it to be. To those who are legitimately his children, God gives discipline – and it’s a gift. For it keeps us on the path of seeking him. God’s refusal to give us the desire of our hearts can be a rescue, not a cruelty. And until we see it that way, the rescue is incomplete.
Does your heart respond with a prompting to “get with the whole ‘seeking God’ program” so that he’ll relent and bless us? Me, too. Again, we see how deep our blindness has got its hooks into us. Our independence from God is the true darkness, not the tragedies of our lives. We just do not see him as the reward. I do not. Not in my flesh.
But I can.
When I let him love me.
When I stop fighting it.
When I stop seeing his love as a smarmy consolation prize.
When I catch and crucify the subconscious urge to make him make up for my past disappointments before I accept that he loves me.
That’s how I’m getting by right now, I realized the other day. That’s why I resonated so much with the cancer patient’s cry. Even though things are going fairly well, it’s doing nothing for my heart. There are still losses, wounds, resentments about this weird and glitchy personality I’ve been saddled with and all the complications it creates. Combined with the increasing darkness of winter, it all coalesces into a sentence that still seems to stand and might never be overturned in this life.
It really is multiple times a day that I must turn to him for rescue. Inching along, my prayers fainter, with “unspoken groanings” (Romans 8:26).
And I finally realize that this is right where I should be.
For only when we are laid low, can God set our feet on high places.
And he is doing that. Oh, how is he doing that. The security, the comfort, the confidence, the hope that comes when we finally stop fighting the Sovereign Oncologist and give in to his ministrations. I can’t talk enough about them. Light piercing the winter. His delight breaking through the 5pm darkness.
I am undergoing a true chemotherapy.