From the book
WHEN GOD DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
Sense Even When He
I have been thinking for many years about those occasions when God doesn't make sense. I was in my late teens when the first "awesome why" came rocketing through my brain. I don't remember today what precipitated that troublesome thought, but I knew I had hit an issue that required more horsepower than I possessed. I've now had a little more time—well, maybe more than a little—to study the Word and sort out my frame of reference. Some 53 years have come and gone since I gave my heart to Jesus Christ as a three-year-old child. I am still committed to this Master with every fiber of my being, and that conviction is deeper and stronger today than it has ever been.
Furthermore, this passage of time and the counsel of some biblical scholars have helped me come to terms with what I believe is the correct understanding of those periods when faith is severely challenged. I believe I have gotten a better idea of who God is and how He interacts with us-—especially in four specific areas.
1. God is present and involved in our lives even when He seems deaf or on an extended leave of absence.
When I was a boy, I heard a mystery program on radio that captured my imagination. It told the story of a man who was condemned to solitary confinement in a pitch-black cell. The only thing he had to occupy his mind was a marble, which he threw repeatedly against the walls. He spent his hours listening to the marble as it bounced and rolled around the room. Then he would grope in the darkness until he found his precious toy.
One day, the prisoner threw his marble upward—but it failed to come down. Only silence echoed through the darkness. He was deeply disturbed by the "evaporation" of the marble and his inability to explain its disappearance. Finally he went berserk, pulled out all his hair, and died.
When the prison officials came to remove his body, a guard noticed something caught in a huge spider's web in the upper corner of the room.
That's strange, he thought. I wonder how a marble got up there.
As the story of the frantic prisoner illustrates, human perception sometimes poses questions the mind is incapable of answering. But valid answers always exist. For those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, it just makes good sense not to depend too heavily on our ability to make the pieces fit—especially when we're trying to figure out the Almighty!
Not only is human perception a highly flawed and imprecise instrument, but our emotions are even less reliable. They have the consistency and dependability of Silly Putty. I wrote a book some years ago entitled, Emotions: Can You Trust Them? I invested nearly 200 pages to answer my own question in the negative. No, we can't depend on our feelings and passions to govern our lives or assess the world around us. Emotions are unreliable—biased—whimsical. They lie as often as they tell the truth. They are manipulated by hormones—especially in the teen years—and they wobble dramatically from early morning, when we're rested, to the evening, when we're tired. One of the evidences of emotional maturity is the ability (and the willingness) to overrule ephemeral feelings and govern our behavior with the intellect and the will. (Did it really require 200 pages to say that?)
If perceptions or emotions are suspect at best, then we must be extremely wary in accepting what they tell us about God. Unfortunately, many believers seem unaware of this source of confusion and disillusionment. It is typical for vulnerable people to accept what they "feel" about the Lord at face value. But what they feel may reflect nothing more than a momentary frame of mind. Furthermore, the mind, the body, and the spirit are very close neighbors. One usually catches the ills of the next. If a person is depressed, for example, it affects not only his emotional and physical well-being; his spiritual life suffers too. He may conclude, "God doesn't love me. I just don't feel His approval." Likewise, the first thing an individual is likely to say when diagnosed with a threatening physical illness is, "Why would God do this to me?" These three faculties are inextricably linked, and they weaken the objectivity of our perception.
This understanding becomes extremely important when it comes to evaluating our relationship with God. Even when He seems 1,000 miles away and uninter- ested in our affairs, He is close enough to touch. A wonderful illustration of this unseen presence is described in Luke 24, verses 13 and 14, when two of Jesus' disciples were walking toward a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They had seen their Master horribly crucified three days earlier, and they were severely depressed. Everything that they hoped for had died on that Roman cross. All the dramatic things Jesus had said and done now appeared contrived and untrue. He had spoken with such authority, but now He was dead and laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. He claimed to be the Son of God, yet they had heard Him cry in His last hours, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). The disciples couldn't have been more confused. What was the meaning of the time they had spent with this man who called Himself the Messiah?
What they didn't realize was that Jesus was walking that dusty road with them at that very moment, and that they were about to be given the greatest news ever heard by human ears. It would revolutionize their lives and turn the rest of the world upside down. At the time, however, all they saw were facts that could not be harmonized. They had, I submit, a problem of perception.
In my work with Christian families in crisis, I find them struggling in many of the same ways as the disciples. As they trudge along in deep thought, there is no evidence that Jesus is in their part of the universe. Because they don't "feel" His presence, they cannot believe He cares. Since the facts don't add up, they are convinced no reasonable explanation exists. Their prayers bring no immediate relief, so they presume they are not heard. But they are wrong. It is my firm conviction in these instances that too much confidence is placed in what people feel, and too little on the promises of God, who said He would supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
If you find yourself on that dusty road to Emmaus today, and the circumstances in your life have left you confused and depressed, I have a word of counsel for you. Never assume God's silence or apparent inactivity is evidence of His disinterest. Let me say it again. Feelings about His inaccessibility mean nothing! Absolutely nothing! His Word is infinitely more reliable than our spooky emotions. Reubin Welch, minister and author, once said, "With God, even when nothing is happening—something is happening." It is true. The Lord is at work in His own unique way even when our prayers seem to echo back from an empty universe.
Establish your foundation not on ephemeral emotions but on the authority of the written Word. He promised never to leave us (Matthew 28:20). He said, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20). He is "a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). We're assured that "the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer" (1 Peter 3:12). David said:
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10).
These promises and proclamations remain true even if we have no spiritual feelings whatsoever. Cling to that truth with the tenacity of a bulldog! For, as Kierkegaard said, "Faith is holding onto uncertainties with passionate conviction."
2. God's timing is perfect, even when He appears catastrophically late.
One of the greatest destroyers of faith is timing that doesn't fit our preconceived notions, we live in a fast-paced world where we have come to expect instant responses to every desire and need. Instant coffee. Instant potatoes. Instant cash from the little money machine. Instant relief for sore muscles and minor backache. It's almost our birthright to make the world jump at our demands. But God doesn't operate that way. He is never in a hurry. And sometimes, He can be agonizingly slow in solving the problems we bring to His attention. It's almost enough to make an impatient believer give up and try something else.
Before bailing out, however, we should take another look at the story of Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, as told in John 11. The members of this little family were among Jesus' closest friends during the time of His earthly ministry. Verse 5 says, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." It was reasonable, given this affection, for them to expect certain favors from Jesus— especially if life-threatening emergencies ever occurred. Indeed, they were soon confronted by precisely that situation when Lazarus became desperately ill. His sisters did the logical thing—they sent an urgent note to Jesus, saying, "Lord, the one you love is sick" (v. 3). They had every reason to believe He would respond.
Mary and Martha waited and watched the road for Jesus' appearance, but He did not come. Hours dragged into anxious days with no sign of the Master. Meanwhile, Lazarus was steadily losing ground. He was obviously dying. But where in the world was Jesus? Did He get the message? Didn't He know the seriousness of the illness? Didn't He care? As the sisters sat vigilantly at his bedside, Lazarus soon closed his eyes in death.
The sisters were grief stricken. Also, they must have been extremely frustrated with Jesus. He was out there somewhere performing miracles for total strangers, opening blind eyes and healing the lame. Yet here they were in critical need of His care, and He was too busy to come. I can imagine Mary and Martha saying quietly to each other, "I just don't understand. I thought He loved us. Why would He abandon us like this?" They wrapped Lazarus in graveclothes and conducted a sad little funeral. Jesus did not attend. Then they said good-bye to their brother and lovingly placed his body in a tomb.
Mary and Martha loved Jesus with all their hearts, but it would have been reasonable for them to have been annoyed when He showed up four days later. They may have been tempted to say, "Where have You been, Sir? We tried to tell You that your friend was dying, but we couldn't get Your attention. Well, You're too late now. You could have saved Him, but apparently there were more important things on Your mind." Mary's actual words were much more respectful, of course. What she said was, "Lord, ... if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21). She wept as she spoke and the Lord was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (v. 33).
Jesus then performed one of His most dramatic miracles as He called Lazarus out of the tomb. You see, the Master was not really late at all. He only appeared to be overdue. He arrived at the precise moment necessary to fulfill the purposes of God—just as He always does. With no disrespect intended, let me say that what happened there in Bethany is characteristic of the Christian life. Haven't you noticed that Jesus usually shows up about four days late? He often arrives after we have wept and worried and paced the floor—after we have sweated out the medical examination or fretted our way through business reverses. If He had arrived on time we could have avoided much of the stress that occurred in His absence. Yet it is extremely important to recognize that He is never actually late. His timetable for action is simply different from ours. And it is usually slower!
[THE ACCOUNT OF LAZARUS IN JOHN 11 IS GOOD FOR ANOTHER TRUTH. LAZARUS WAS DEAD! BUT JESUS SAID HE WAS SLEEPING, BUT JESUS MEANT HE WAS INDEED DEAD AS WE SEE FROM THE CONTEXT. HERE IS THE BIBLE DEFINITION OF DEATH - IT IS SLEEP - NOT KNOWING ANYTHING, NOT AWAKE IN SOME OTHER WORLD, NOT WALKING AROUND, NOT TALKING TO DEAD OTHERS, NOT PLAYING ON A HARP IN HEAVEN. DEATH IS THE BLACKNESS OF SLEEP. I ONCE HAD A MINOR OPERATION, THEY PUT ME “OUT” - ONE SECOND TALKING TO THEM, THE NEXT SECOND “OUT” AS A LIGHT. I REMEMBER NOTHING…..I WAS WOKEN UP BY A NURSE. I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, “I’VE JUST EXPERIENCED DEATH - THAT IS WHAT DEATH MUST BE LIKE” - AND WE EXPERIENCE IT EACH TIME WE FALL ASLEEP; ESPECIALLY IF WE HAVE NO “DREAMS” - JUSUS’ INTERPRETATION FOR US ABOUT DEATH, IS SLEEP - Keith Hunt]
Let me illustrate this concept from my own experience. In 1985 I was asked by the United States Attorney General, Edwin Meese, to serve on his Commission on Pornography. It was without doubt the most difficult and unpleasant assignment of my life. For 18 months, the 10 other members and I handled a thankless and nauseating responsibility. We traveled extensively and examined the most wretched magazines, books, films, and videotapes in existence anywhere in the world. Since the United States is the fountainhead for obscenity worldwide, we were immersed in this filth for what seemed like an eternity. Furthermore, the pornographers and smut peddlers tracked our commission like a pack of wolves following a herd of caribou. They did everything they could to intimidate and humiliate us.
I remember sitting in the public hearings day after day with various types of cameras, including videos, aimed at my face. I could see my reverse image reflected in their lenses for hours, which tends to make one self-conscious. The photographers were waiting for me to do something embarrassing, such as make a weird face or put my finger near my nose. One day when I stood up to leave for a lunch break, I turned around and was confronted by a photographer and his clicking camera just inches from my face. Always, there were microphones taped beside my place at the table to record every whispered word or remark. My comments were then parodied the following month in various pornographic publications. Hustler magazine superimposed my picture on the backside of a donkey, awarding me the title Ass of the Month. The attorney general never said it would be easy.
These efforts at harassment were momentary irritants. Bigger guns would be rolled out later, and they were fired soon enough. A $30 million lawsuit was filed by three organizations, Playboy, Penthouse, and the American Magazine Association, shortly before we issued our final report. It named as defendants every member of the commission, its executive director (Alan Sears), and Attorney General Edwin Meese. The complaint was a trumped-up bit of legalese that our lawyers said was totally without merit. Attorneys at the Department of Justice told us not to worry—the case should be thrown out of court in short order. They were wrong.
The matter was assigned to Judge John Garrett Penn, one of the most liberal judges in the Northeast. Incredibly, he held the ridiculous case on his desk for more than two years before ruling on a relatively simple motion for summary judgment. Eventually, he decided in our favor. The litigants immediately appealed, and we spent another year in limbo. We won the next round, which was followed by yet another appeal. For six years this threatening suit hung over our heads as it worked its way through the legal system. It finally reached the Supreme Court in early 1992, which thankfully ended the ordeal. This is the way 11 citizens were rewarded for serving without compensation at the request of their country!
Getting back to our theme, Shirley and I prayed about the lawsuit when it was filed back in 1986. I was carrying heavy responsibilities at Focus on the Family and certainly didn't need this distraction. We asked that the "cup" be removed from us, but there was no immediate reply from the Lord. Thus, the process was allowed to run its course with its inevitable drain on my physical and emotional resources. Six years later, Jesus "showed up" and the issue was resolved. But why, I wondered, did He come "four days late"? Was there anything gained by dragging out the case in the courts? I'm sure there was, knowing that every prayer is answered either positively or negatively. I also believe literally that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Nevertheless, I am unable to explain or understand why I had to go through six years of wasted time and energy to settle this irritant. But then, it really doesn't matter, does it? It is unnecessary for me to be told why the Lord permitted the suit to continue. As long as I know He loves me and He never makes a mistake, why should I not be content to rest in His protection?
[I WOULD ASK WHY DO IT ALL IN THE FIRST PLACE, KNOWING JESUS SAID BEFORE HE RETURNS “EVIL SHALL ABOUND, AND THE LOVE (TRUE GODLY LOVE) SHALL WAX COLD” (MAT.245)….I WOULD HAVE NOT DONE THIS KNOWING THE WEAR AND TEAR ON MY MIND AND BODY - I HAVE MORE FRUITFUL THINGS TO DO IN LIFE THAN FIGHT SOMETHING THAT WILL NOT GO AWAY TILL JESUS COMES AGAIN - Keith Hunt]
From my study of the Scriptures and from personal experiences such as the one cited above, I have drawn the conclusion that God's economy of time and energy is very different from ours. Most of us in Western nations are motivated to use every second of our existence for some gainful purpose. But the Lord sometimes permits our years to be "squandered," or so it would seem, without a backward glance. It is difficult to understand, for example, why He dealt with young David as He did. This shepherd boy was hand-selected by the Lord from all the youths of Israel to succeed Saul as King. Not even David's father, Jesse, could believe seven other sons were passed over in favor of the youngest. Yet David was designated as the future patriarch of Israel. What an auspicious beginning for an adolescent tender of sheep.
[WELL SOME THINGS WE MAY ENTER INTO ARE A LACK OF SIMPLE WISDOM. DOBSON SHOULD HAVE BEEN WISE ENOUGH TO NOT HAVE ACCEPTED, AND 6 YEARS OF SQUANDERED TIME WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER USED - Keith Hunt]
But take another look. God then permitted Saul to chase David into the wilderness where he spent 14 years running for his life. From a human perspective, this time as a fugitive was an enormous waste of David's youthful years. He could have been sent through a training program to prepare him for national leadership or any number of worthwhile endeavors. Almost anything would have been more profitable, it seems, than sitting around a campfire telling war stories and wondering where Saul and his band of merry men would pop up. He must have despaired of ever going home again. But the Lord had David right where He wanted Him. Obviously, there is no "tyranny of the urgent" in God's scheme of things. He acts according to His own ordered schedule. Even Jesus, who lived 33 years on earth spent only three in active ministry!
Think of how many more people He could have healed—and how many more divine truths He could have imparted—in another decade or two.
Look at the human talent that has been "wasted" by early death or disability over the centuries. Wolfgang Mozart, for example, may have had the greatest musical mind in the history of the world. He composed his first symphony at five years of age and turned out a remarkable volume of brilliant work. But he died penniless at 35, being unable to attract any interest in his compositions. His most valuable possession at the time of his death was a violin worth about two dollars. He was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave, and no one attended his funeral. Who was it that said life is fair?
Although I'm aware of no evidence that Mozart was a believer, I still find it interesting to contemplate the Lord's role in his early demise. Just imagine the music Mozart could have written if permitted to live another 20 or 30 years. Wouldn't you enjoy hearing the "best of the never written symphonies" that might have come from this maturing genius? How about Ludwig van Beethoven, who began losing his hearing before he was 30 years of age? Consider the great Christian leaders who were taken before they had exhausted their potential, such as Oswald Chambers who died at 43, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was hanged by the Nazis at 39, Peter Marshall who died at 47, etc. Why would God invest such extraordinary ability in those whose lives would be abbreviated by death? I don't know.
[SOME GOT THEIR FAME AFTER DEATH; SOME WERE NEVER REALLY TRUE SERVANTS OF GOD, THOUGH THEY MAY HAVE BEEN SINCERE; MOST OF THE SO-CALLED GREATS OF THEOLOGY WERE DECEIVED FOR THE MOST PART IN THEIR THEOLOGY - Keith Hunt]
On the other side of that question stand the individuals who were afforded long life despite their defiance of God. In 2 Kings 21, for example, we read of one such man. His name was Manasseh, son of the godly King Hezekiah. He was perhaps the most wicked despot ever to rule in Jerusalem. Manasseh came to power at 12 years of age, and "did evil in the eyes of the Lord" (v. 2) all the days of his life. He built altars to the false god Baal, even placing wooden idols in the temple of the Lord. He burned to death his own son, practiced witchcraft, consulted spiritulaists and mediums, and "did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger" (v. 6). "Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites" (v. 9). Finally, we read, "Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—-besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord" (v. 16). Because of this great wickedness, the judgment of God fell on subsequent generations—but not on Manasseh. He reigned 55 years and "rested with his fathers, and was buried in his palace garden, the garden of Uzza." End of story.
I have no doubt that terrible justice will be meted out to Manasseh on Judgment Day, but it does seem strange that he was permitted for 55 years to murder innocent people, sacrifice his children, and blaspheme the name God. Uzzah, on the other hand, was killed instantly by God for a single misdeed—reaching out to steady the ark of the covenant lest it fall (2 Samuel 6:6-7). And in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira suffered the penalty of death for lying about their gifts to the body of believers (Acts 5:1-11). Something doesn't appear to add up here.
What conclusions can we draw from these seeming contradictions, except to "Let God be God"? He does not explain Himself to man! We can say with confi-dence that while His purposes and plans are very different from ours, He is infinitely just and His timing is always perfect. He intervenes at just the right moment for our ultimate good. Until we hear from Him, then, we would be wise not to get in a lather.
[YES WE MUST LET ALL THESE THINGS BE IN THE HANDS OF THE LORD; WE MAY NOT HAVE OR BVE GIVEN THE ANSWERS AS TO WHY GOD ALLOWS IT ALL TO PLAY OUT - Keith Hunt]
3. For reasons that are impossible to explain, we human beings are incredibly precious to God.
One of the most breathtaking concepts in all of Scripture is the revelation that God knows each of us personally and that we are in His mind both day and night. There is simply no way to comprehend the full implications of this love by the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is all-powerful and all-knowing, majestic and holy, from everlasting to everlasting. Why would He care about us—about our needs, our welfare, our fears? We have been discussing situations in which God doesn't make sense. His concern for us mere mortals is the most inexplicable of all.
Job also had difficulty understanding why the Creator would be interested in human beings. He asked, “What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning . .. ?” (Job 7:17-18). David contemplated the same question when he wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4). And again in Psalm 139: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord” (w. 1-4). What an incredible concept!
Not only is the Lord "mindful" of each one of us, but He describes Himself throughout Scripture as our Father. In Luke 11:13 we read, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Psalm 103:13 says, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him." But on the other hand, He is likened to a mother in Isaiah 66:13: "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."
Being a parent of two children, both now grown, I can identify with these parental analogies. They help me begin to comprehend how God feels about us. Shirley and I would give our lives for Danae and Ryan in a heartbeat if necessary. We pray for them every day, and they are never very far from our thoughts. And how vulnerable we are to their pain! Can it be that God actually loves His human family infinitely more than we, "being evil," can express to our own flesh and blood? That's what the Word teaches.
An incident occurred during our son's early childhood that illustrated for me this profound love of the heavenly Father. Ryan had a terrible ear infection when he was three years old that kept him (and us) awake most of the night. Shirley bundled up the toddler the next morning and took him to see the pediatrician. This doctor was an older man with very little patience for squirming kids. He wasn't overly fond of parents, either.
After examining Ryan, the doctor told Shirley that the infection had adhered itself to the eardrum and could only be treated by pulling the scab loose with a wicked little instrument. He warned that the procedure would hurt, and instructed Shirley to hold her son tightly on the table. Not only did this news alarm her, but enough of it was understood by Ryan to send him into orbit. It didn't take much to do that in those days.
Shirley did the best she could. She put Ryan on the examining table and attempted to hold him down. But he would have none of it. When the doctor inserted the pick-like instrument in his ear, the child broke loose and screamed to high heaven. The pediatrician then became angry at Shirley and told her if she couldn't follow instructions she'd have to go get her husband. I was in the neighborhood and quickly came to the examining room. After hearing what was needed, I swallowed hard and wrapped my 200-pound, 6-foot-2-inch frame around the toddler. It was one of the toughest moments in my career as a parent. What made it so emotional was the horizontal mirror that Ryan was facing on the back side of the examining table. This made it possible for him to look directly at me as he screamed for mercy. I really believe I was in greater agony in that moment than my terrified little boy. It was too much. I turned him loose—and got a beefed-up version of the same bawling-out that Shirley had received a few minutes earlier. Finally, however, the grouchy pediatrician and I finished the task.
I reflected later on what I was feeling when Ryan was going through so much suffering. What hurt me was the look on his face. Though he was screaming and couldn't speak, he was "talking" to me with those big blue eyes. He was saying, "Daddy! Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me. I never thought you would do anything like this! How could you . . . ? Please, please! Stop hurting me!"
It was impossible to explain to Ryan that his suffering was necessary for his own good, that I was trying to help him, that it was love that required me to hold him on the table. How could I tell him of my compassion in that moment? I would gladly have taken his place on the table, if possible. But in his immature mind, I was a traitor who had callously abandoned him.
Then I realized that there must be times when God also feels our intense pain and suffers along with us. Wouldn't that be characteristic of a Father whose love was infinite? How He must hurt when we say in confusion, "How could You do this terrible thing, Lord? Why me? I thought I could trust You! I thought You were my friend!" How can He explain within our human limitations that our agony is necessary, that it does have a purpose, that there are answers to the tragedies of life? I wonder if He anticipates the day when He can make us understand what was occurring in our time of trial. I wonder if He broods over our sorrows.
Some readers might doubt that an omnipotent God with no weaknesses and no needs is vulnerable to this kind of vicarious suffering. No one can be certain. We do know that Jesus experienced the broad range of human emotions, and then He told Philip, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Remember that Jesus was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" when Mary wept over Lazarus. He also wept as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and spoke of the sorrow that would soon come upon the Jewish people. Likewise, we are told that the Spirit intercedes for us now with "groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26). It seems logical to assume, therefore, that God, the Father, is passionately concerned about His human "family" and shares our grief in those unspeakable moments "when sorrows like sea billows roll." I believe He does.
4. Your arms are too short to box with God. Don't try it!
Several years ago, there was a Broadway theatrical performance called, "Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God." I didn't see it, but I agree with the premise behind the title. The human intellectual apparatus is pitifully ill-equipped to argue with the Creator. New Age followers don't agree. They say each of us can become gods in our own right by zoning in on a crystal and sitting cross-legged until our toes go to sleep. How presumptuous!
In a wonderful recorded sermon delivered by author Frank Peretti, he mocked the mumbo jumbo advice of New Agers on their journey to omnipotence. Frank asked us to picture Shirley MacLaine (who has in recent years become the High Priestess of the weird) on a lonely beach somewhere. "Listen carefully, and you will hear her talking to the earth—or the moon—or somebody. She draws circles in the sand with her big toe and says in a squeaky voice, 'I . . . am god! I . . . am god!'" Sure you are, and I'm Julius Caesar.
No, we human beings hardly qualify as gods—even piddly ones. Despite our intense efforts to understand ourselves, we have learned very little about living together harmoniously or even what makes us tick. The best trained and most respected secular psychologists and psychiatrists still believe that man is basically good—that he only learns to do evil from society. If that were true, surely there would be at least one culture somewhere in the world where selfishness, dishonesty, and violence have not shown up. Instead, the history of human experience down through the millennia is the history of warfare—and murder and greed and exploitation. "Peace" is what we call that brief moment between wars when people stop to reload. And Plato said, "Only dead men have seen an end to war." He has been proved correct down across some 2,500 years. You might also take a good look at your children. How can anyone who has raised a toddler fail to recognize that rebellion, selfishness and aggression do not have to be cultivated. Kids come by it quite naturally. Thus, this most basic characteristic of human nature has been overlooked by those specifically trained to observe it.
[NO SOME WAY OFF CULTURES DID NOT BECOME EVIL, THERE IS LITTLE EVIDENCE THE ESKIMO WERE EVIL AGAINST EACH OTHER, THEY WERE TOO BUSY TRYING TO KEEP ALIVE. EVIL COMES INTO THE HEART VIA DEMONIC POWERS AND DEGENERATED SOCIETIES. I’M SURE WHEN JOSEPH WAS ALLOWED TO RULE EGYPT, YOU HAD A GODLY SOCIETY. GROWING UP IN THE HUB OF THE WORLD, LIKE PLATO YOU’D SAY ONLY DEAD MEN HAVE SEEN AN END TO WAR - Keith Hunt]
Similar error riddles much of what we think and believe. Many scientific textbooks of 75 years ago seem like joke books today. Physicians in that era were still leeching people to "drain out the poisons." Even when I was in graduate school we were taught that humans had 48 chromosomes (the number is 46) and that Down's syndrome was caused by congenital influences (it is caused by one of several genetic anomalies). Certainly, we have learned much from the explosion of research and scientific investigation. I'm not disparaging that effort. I am saying that most of what was believed in ages past was palpably wrong. Could it be that we are living today in the first period in human history when nearly everything we have concluded is accurate? No chance!
This is the point made earlier: If human intelligence and perception are undependable in assessing everyday reality, which can be seen, touched, heard, tasted, and smelled, how much less capable is it of evaluating the unfathomable God of the universe? Our efforts to encapsulate and comprehend Him are equally as futile. We can only delve so far into the infinite mind of the Maker before we run out of marbles. Still, the arrogance of mankind in ignoring or challenging the wisdom of the Almighty is shocking at times.
A story is told about the British general Bernard (Monty) Montgomery, who had a notoriously large ego. He was giving a speech one day in which he related a conversation between Moses and God. Montgomery said, "As God pointed out to Moses—and I think rightly so—" I'm sure the Lord was relieved to hear that Monty approved of His advice to Moses. Other examples of man's arrogance are not so humorous, such as the notion that the genius of creation simply evolved over time, with no design and no Designer. The Lord must marvel at the stupidity of that idea. I've also wondered how He feels about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that the Ten Commandments cannot be posted on a public school bulletin board.
Job tried to question God and was given a rather pointed history lesson in response. Note especially the first sentence from the mouth of the Lord.
Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:2- 7)
God continued that discourse until Job got his mind straight, and then the Lord added these words, "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" (Job 40:2). Job got the message. He replied, "I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more" (Job 40:4-5).
There have been a few times in my life when I've made the same mistake as Job, demanding answers from God. One such occasion is a source of embarrass- ment to me today. It is too personal to relate in detail, except to say there was something I wanted the Lord to do for me that I thought I needed very badly. It seemed in keeping with His Word, and I set out to assure that my prayer was answered. I prayed every day for weeks, begging God to grant this request that seemed to be so significant. I was literally on my face before Him during this time of petition. Nevertheless, He clearly said no! He didn't explain or apologize. He simply shut the door.
At first I was hurt, and then I became angry. I knew better, but I was tempted to say with sarcasm, "Would it have been too troublesome for You to have taken a moment from Your busy day to hear the cry of your servant?" I did not utter these words, but I couldn't help what I felt. And I felt abandoned. Well, two years went by and my circumstances changed radically. The matter that I had prayed about began to look very different. Ultimately I realized that it would have been most unfortunate if the Lord had granted my request in that instance. He loved me enough to turn me down, even when I was demanding my own way.
Others have also lived to regret what they had asked for. I knew a teenage girl who fell madly in love with an adolescent Romeo and pleaded with God to turn his heart in her direction. The petition was flatly denied. Thirty-five years later when their paths crossed again, she was shocked to see that the gorgeous hunk of masculinity she remembered had turned into an unmotivated, paunchy, middle-aged bore. She recalled her youthful prayer and whispered ever so quietly, "Thank you, Lord!"
Admittedly, most of our spiritual frustrations do not end with an enlightened, "Oh, now I see what You doing, Lord!" We just have to file them under the heading, "Things I Don't Understand," and leave it there. In those instances, we should be thankful that He does what is best for us whether or not it contradicts our wishes. Even a reasonably good parent sometimes says "no" to a child's demands.
I've been trying to say with this discussion that our view of God is too small—that His power and His wisdom cannot even be imagined by us mortals. He is not just "the man upstairs" or "the great chauffeur in the sky," or some kind of Wizard who will do a dance for those who make the right noises. We dare not trivialize the One about whom it is written:
Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)
If we truly understood the majesty of this Lord and the depth of His love for us, we would certainly accept those times when He defies human logic and sensibilities. Indeed, that is what we must do. Expect confusing experiences to occur along the way. Welcome them as ... friends—as opportunities for your faith to grow. Hold fast to your faith, without which it is impossible to please Him. Never let yourself succumb to the "betrayal barrier," which is Satan's most effective tool against us. Instead, store away your questions for a lengthy con- versation on the other side, and then press on toward the mark. Any other approach is foolhardy—because your arms are too short to box with God.
TO BE CONTINUED