There are days, as a parent, that I think I may lose all moral fortitude and go completely ape…specifically those days when our children sense that everything–all day long– is unjust. On these days, it takes special strategy, to avoid entering a 10 hour judge and jury shift. Prayer, patience, counting to 10, trying to be proactive & think of fun things to divert the energy. I’m also not opposed to a glass of red. My rationale is that the stress caused affects my stomach. The Apostle Paul okayed that.
This is going to feel like a 90 degree turn in my thinking but hang with me. Earlier this week, I posted something that spoke to me as a great truth. It was a phrase that came from a book I’m currently reading entitled More Than Ordinary: Enjoying God by Doug Sherman. The phrase was this: “Do you believe the LORD has our best interest in His heart? Your answer to this question affects every choice made today.” As I was typing that, the thought crossed my mind…how will this truth test us if something bad happens this week? The next day, a family in our community lost their 16 year old son in a car accident. The following day, bombs went off in Boston. And the next day, a fertilizer plant in Texas exploded killing dozens.
Thank God every week isn’t like this one. We can all certainly point to seasons of our own lives where we have thought “seriously God?! Why did you let that happen!?” Where exactly is God on the continuum between “everything left to chance” and “everything predetermined by Him?” In a season now when there appears to be a resurgence of Calvinistic thinking (thank you John Piper), I would suggest that this is like many ideas in scripture where we live with 2 evidences in conflict. We can all point to scriptures and circumstances that support both ends. Somehow the reality is that they are both overlapping. We live in a tension between them. I want God to expand His prevention business; but that doesn’t seem to be happening. And like my children, it causes me to cry out unfair! Unjust!
I had the opportunity to preach on Jonah last weekend. I loved researching this amazing narrative in the Old Testament. (By the way, the story is NOT about a whale. There’s one in it…well, some kind of big fish.) But the tension of the story is Jonah’s angst with God because God’s idea of justice is very different from Jonah’s idea of justice. When we get down to the core of the story, we are challenged with the truth that God is as much, if not more, grieved by the observed injustice. But in His all-knowingness, will act in the best possible way to bring about the best possible future outcome in the face of what the Enemy has wrought. Jonah is NOT quiet about his feelings, and throws quite a tantrum.
In Psalms, the hymnbook of ancient Israel, over half are songs of complaint. As a worship pastor, I grieve that we have shelved these. Believe it or not, they are songs written for the purpose of the congregation complaining together to God about things that they feel are unjust. Apparently, it is good for our souls to acknowledge, corporately and individually, when things are not right and something needs to be done about it. Most of our worship services are filled ONLY with the greatness of God…which is wonderful & worthy; but the LORD also wants to know from us what we observe is wrong with His world.
So…back to that FB post. “Do you believe the LORD has our best interest in His heart? Your answer to this question affects every choice made today.” Actually, our honest impressions of this statement got installed in us like software early on in our lives. If our answer is “no,” or if our answer is “probably, but He is not going to do anything about it,” it’s very difficult to correct. But that is the business that the Holy Spirit is in: new software installation. It is a significant step in discipleship to realize that Jesus is walking alongside you, personally, everyday, waiting on you & me to engage Him, to ask Him, to invite His thoughts into our every activity. Once we embrace a “yes” answer, then no matter what happens we can look Christ in the face and say “wow, didn’t see that coming. How are we going to handle this?” This is how God “works things for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. We get to participate in restoration. And we grow to understand that He is more deeply hurt than we are, that it was not intended to be this way, and that a day will come that this sort of thing will never happen again.
We get to participate in restoration.
In the meantime, complaining to Him is a sort of prayer. It actually IS worship. When I complain to God about something unjust, I am also saying within my heart “I believe you can fix this. I believe you can make something beautiful out of this mess. I am willing to help bring your Kingdom to earth.”
This gives me perspective the next time my kids come demanding a verdict. After all, I’m part of their software install.