Give God a Break

There is a phrase that my Old Testament professor has said several times that has stuck with me. When reading stories that are difficult to reconcile and don’t make sense, he says that those are the moments when he “gives God the benefit of the doubt.”

There are more than just the old Bible stories that make us wonder about God’s goodness…

Headlines about a toddler bound in a closet, only acknowledged when she can be sexually exploited. I read that story in the paper last week. 

Stories of young women trapped in domestic violence. Every three days in Arizona, someone dies in a domestic violence related incident. Most of these domestic violence homicides are committed by men, and most of the victims are women and children. (http://www.azcadv.org/service-standards/)

People who kill other people because they claim God told them to do it. This happened not far from where I go grocery shopping.

How can we see such pain, suffering and injustice and not wonder how a good God could allow it?

 I was preparing for a soul care class that I teach at a local women’s center for women in crisis, and the Lord kept speaking to me about mercy. We read through Deuteronomy in my Old Testament class, and I was overcome by the incredible mercy of God. It wasn’t the typical use of mercy that “doesn’t give me the punishment I deserve” that struck me. It was the mercy that “prevents something unpleasant” or “provides relief from suffering” that caught my attention.

Then I started reading Lamentations. I couldn’t contain my tears as I read Jeremiah’s anguish and turmoil of soul. He sees all the destruction around him and he even attributes it to God. He knows that it is the Lord’s judgment on Israel for the broken covenant. But he also knows that this same God loves justice and delights in mercy. He provides relief from suffering.

Today we are so afraid to claim any suffering and pain as coming from the Lord, because if it were he that caused pain, we judge that he would not be a loving God. We don’t want to deny that God is loving, so we come up with theology that separates God from all suffering and pain in our lives; he is only connected to blessing and favor.

Something about that doesn’t seem to line up with the way ancient Israel interacted with their deity. It doesn’t correspond with Paul’s exhortations from prison to the persecuted church.

I realized that whether it is because of my circumstances, the injustice I see around me, or the Bible stories of God wiping out entire nations and races…I do not give God the benefit of the doubt. Rather, God is often under the microscope and his motives continually examined. He is accused moment by moment, and yet He is the Holy One. He is the righteous judge, not ME. It is as if the blame has been swapped, removing the guilt from us and onto the Lord. What a great deception we walk in when we assume ourselves to be an adequate judge and to presume judgment on the Lord.

I think we need to give God a little break from the accusations.

So I am making a practice to give God the benefit of the doubt, to know that he is full of mercy and kindness, and to trust that he is a righteous and good judge. “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and he loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing (Deut. 10:18)” and his mercies never come to an end.

“For the Lord will not reject forever.

Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

for he does not willingly afflict

or grieve anyone.”

Lamentations 3:31-33

 

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Save Part of Yourself

I really wanted to write a blog to finish out 2015. I had specific lines in my head that I wanted to write and I was going to post it on Facebook before I deactivated my account so that I could get more traffic.

BUT, the days kept coming and going without my computer being opened.

I had several blogs already written from months ago, saved on my computer but never posted. They are bursts of words exploding from moments of inspiration. They are really good too, but I never shared them.

I heard Elizabeth Gilbert talk about the story that you need to write and how it might be different from the story you publish. I love that there are expressions of my creativity that no one will ever see and that the process of creating it serves the purpose of the creation.

It’s really tempting to share every thing we create because we crave affirmation and approval. We want the praises of people to confirm that what we did for ourselves is valued and qualified.

I think that’s why those blogs were never shared. I want to preserve that sacred space in my soul where creativity and inspiration and life happen. It is a revolutionary thought for me to realize that I don’t have to give everything away. Therefore, when I do give parts of myself or when I share that sacred space with someone, it is genuine and powerful.

In 2016, I want to carve out more spaces in my life that no one sees. The last few years have been a journey for me to be less open with the world. It sounds counter-intuitive and opposite of what our pop-culture would preach but for me it is balance and centeredness. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be vulnerable, but it does mean that when I am vulnerable the outcome does not destroy me. It means that I will bare my soul but only to those who are worthy of it. And when the time comes to share those tender parts of my soul with the world, the healing will be complete.

It feels like a deep breath of fresh air to be able to say that I am worthy and to live accordingly. My entire being is at rest because it is finally being treated with respect, not by all the surrounding influences or voices but by myself. What peace there is when I am in alignment with heaven.

I can love and respect myself because God first loved and respected me.

Selah.