Culture is a powerful thing, isn’t it? We have these ideas about the way things should be, and I would say those ideas are largely shaped by what our culture tells us is good or right, whether that be national/regional, family, church, hipster, or some other kind of culture. We don’t realize how much the world and culture we live in infiltrates our thinking.
One particular culture I am familiar with is Christian culture. And I’ve noticed that some Christians actually hold a lot of views that aren’t biblical. Imagine that. The biggest reason probably being that many Christians don’t read the Bible, although there are others.
I think sometimes we get confused about what God “wants” for us. We project a lot of our thoughts and feelings onto God. We limit Him to what our human minds are capable of perceiving and understanding. We often forget that His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
One of the things we Christians grasp is that our God is a God who redeems. We cling to this and are thankful for His ability to bring good from bad, beauty from ashes, to mend the brokenhearted, heal the sick, give sight to the blind. This is a beautiful truth and one of the most central tenets of our faith. But I’ve started to wonder, have we come to expect this from God? Because God redeems, does that mean He must redeem?
I’ve found that people don’t like it a whole lot when I talk like God might not redeem this broken thing. There is usually pushback, because how could leaving something broken be the most loving thing God could do? Or is it that my faith is too small because I don’t assume God will fix my problems, and because I recognize that He may not? But I don’t think this comes from a lack of faith, but more an acceptance of Romans 11:34, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
The truth is, God will ultimately redeem and make all things new. We can expect Him to restore all that is wrong in the world. But He doesn’t always do that on this side of eternity. We don’t always get to see that happen here on Earth. People who are sick die. Marriages fall apart. Careers crumble. This idea that if we pray hard enough and believe hard enough that God will make things right just doesn’t line up with reality. So what message are we sending to non-believers when we say that God is going to “come through” for us…and then He doesn’t?
We’re quick to say “God gives good gifts” when we get that thing we’ve been wanting. But what do we say when He delays? When there is no end in sight to our waiting? When the hurt and pain seem endless? When it’s been years and we are still sifting through the wreckage?
We know that redemption and healing are from our great God. He is gracious and kind to allow us to experience these things at times. But what about all those other times? What is my heart’s response when God does not give me what I want? Is it anger? Rebellion? Doubt? Is it trying to take control myself?
God isn’t wrong for giving us a “No”. He is good and right for doing so. He doesn’t always heal the sick and feed the hungry. Oftentimes, He allows our suffering to continue…sometimes even to death. We see this in Scripture. Moses never enters the Promised Land. God doesn’t take Paul’s thorn away. Sometimes the woman who deeply desires a husband never finds one. Sometimes parents lose another baby. And those things don’t make God any less God or any less loving.
If we believe that God’s goodness, or love, or justice, or sovereignty is based on what happens to us, our view of God will crumble as our circumstances fall apart. We will be tempted to believe that God isn’t for us, that He is holding out on us, that He doesn’t love us like He says He does. God’s purposes are much higher than ours, and oftentimes inconceivable.
I don’t know why God chooses to leave some things broken, but I do know I am not God. My knowledge is so small. And He is so trustworthy. I know that He works all things together for the GOOD of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). I know that all the pain and brokenness of this world remind me that this is not my true home, that I was made for eternity where all will be made right. I know that the hard things I endure in this life leave me longing to be in God’s presence where peace and light and goodness flow forever. I know that oftentimes my pain pushes me to seek Him and long to be closer to Him, and that is the absolute best thing for me. May that always be my response when things don’t go as I would like.
Our culture (whichever one it may be) is sending all sorts of messages, and not all of them are based on truth. Let us look to Scripture to tell us who God is. Let us love God for who He is, and may what He does or doesn’t do always grow our hearts for Him.