Wednesday, April 23, 2014


"God will help you slay the Goliaths in your life."

It takes all my self-control not to scream out and start hitting the steering wheel as we pass the church. Another sign, but this time, one with a message so toxic, it makes me shake with anger. You have got to be kidding me, is all I can think, over and over. It takes me until I pull into my driveway three minutes later to realize why this makes me so mad. And it has everything to do with pain.

This view of God, this idea of Him, turns Him into a genie. The scene cuts to the pretty little girl skipping through a flower-filled field, not a care in the word, until a mean kid shows up and pushes her down. Her face twists more with humiliation than pain until a beam of light shines down from heaven and the bully's hard face slacks with awe and he slowly backs away. Just in the minute when she needed Him, God intervened and rescued the little girl from the mean kid. We rub our lamps hard enough or squint our eyes tight enough in prayer and God will swoop down, fix the problem, and whoosh back up to heaven.

Why does this make me so mad? What is so wrong with this kind of God, one who obviously loves His creatures enough to rescue them? It makes me mad because I don't see this kind of justice, the one in that wronged little girl's life. You know what I see? I see shuddering shoulders of countless women I know whose children never tasted breath before they died, women who wait to meet these precious blessings in heaven, the only place they will ever know them. I see the shock of betrayal so deep it can never be mended, not really, so deep that every time I think of it, it steals my breath. I see every headline my cursor hovers over, unable to click. War wrecking this place, the gaping maw of poverty in that place, children standing with guns in victory over the men they feel proud to have killed. I see friends who have watched their parents empty from the inside out and become shells from cancer. I see a friend sitting across from me at our dining room table, wide emptiness in his eyes, trying to make sense of senseless death. And I imagine me saying to him, "God will help you slay the Goliaths in your life." And I imagine him flipping our dining room table off its legs, plates and cups and silverware sailing through the air on their way to crashing to the ground. I imagine him walking out of our home because what kind of truth is that? What kind of help is that? How can that possibly be?

Our answer to struggle and difficulty is "God will fix that"? Well, what about when He doesn't? What about all those times when death wins and we lose? What about all those wounds we carry around that will never heal right, that cut too deep? Did that not count as a Goliath? Was it not big enough for God to step in? Tell that to every mom I ever saw stooped over their child's hospital bed. So was God just not there? Or maybe worse, was He there, but He didn't care enough to help? To stop it from happening in the first place or to fix it once it did? How can God love me and still be good if He just stood idly by? That's where this idea of God ultimately ends. It might feel good to think we have a magic bullet in our pocket, ready to be used in times of deep distress. But we will be disappointed. We will be disappointed in our times of deep distress when we whip that bullet out and it turns to air.

So what is the truth? If this is wrong, what is true of God? What can you say to someone in the midst of great loss or grief or struggle? (Hint: It's not "God won't give you more than you can handle." But that's a whole other post...) I'm not a trained counselor or an authority on the subject. All I can share is the road I have walked and walked with others. And all things have their time and their place, so please don't see this as me giving you your golden ticket to get out of an uncomfortable moment. Don't rush to this like it's a bandaid. But learn this. Because when pain comes for you or for someone you hold so dear that you feel the knife slash you too, you need to know this. And you need to believe this. And this needs to be the air you breathe.

The Bible's poster child for suffering (outside of Jesus himself) is sweet old Job. And he gets here too, to the "Why, God?" place. He loses his family, all his money, his home, his health. He continues to honor God through it all, through more than 30 chapters of story and dialogue and pain upon more pain and people telling him to curse God. And finally he cries out, "Why?" And you're like, "Yes! Thank you! I need to know the answer to this."

And God says, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"


"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"

The first time I read that part, I honestly flipped back the page to see if I had missed something. Seriously, God? That's your answer? And He doesn't stop there. He goes on for pages and pages about all the incredible, amazingly powerful things He has done and the message for Job in them all is, "Where were you? Can you do this? Can you even comprehend this?"

At the end of all of Job's pain and suffering, all of yours and mine and the whole world's, is God. He isn't absent, floating on a cloud somewhere unaware. He isn't a genie to be called down to grant us our wishes. He is the author of time. He is the God who, before He formed the universe, first created nothingness in which to bring the universe. He is the God who knit you in the womb and holds the Colorado River as it forms the Grand Canyon. Job asks, "Why, God?" And God says, "Who are you?" And what this gives us is not a compress to stop the bleeding or a few stitches to make the scar look right. What this gives us is a right perspective and a right view of God. This gives us a God who is conducting a vast orchestra and whom we should trust. This gives us a God who is here, who does see, and who loves. And we can look to our left and our right and not see Him for the dust life has kicked up around us. But we know He is there... because He says He is. And our picture is so small; what we see is so tiny. We get the slightest glimpse of this vast earth and we don't have a clue. We walk out with our right view of God and we get a new perspective. It's not about me. It's not. It's not about me and it's not about you and I can't always tell you what it is about, except that God is holding the reigns. And I trust Him.

I trust Him through death and the threat of death. I trust Him through violence and emptiness and strange, twisted roads. God will give you more than you can handle... so you will lean on Him. God will not slay all your Goliaths... so you will cry out to Him. And when you do? He will tell you, just as He told Job, "I am God and you are not. Fix your eyes on me and watch."

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