Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wrestling With God.

This past summer I heard a camp speaker whom I respect a great deal talk about how that if you decide to follow Christ, he won’t ask you to do something you really won’t want to do. He gave an illustration about a girl who wants to devote her life to Christ, but is afraid to give everything up because she’s afraid that he will ask her to go to the remote jungles of Africa and she really, really doesn’t want to get sent there. When the speaker spoke about this, I thought to myself, “That sounds good. I’d never really thought about it like that before.” Yet, there was something about what the speaker said that left my soul unsettled, as though something weren’t quite right. I wanted to believe what the speaker said. I wanted to believe it wholeheartedly, but the experiences of my life and some of the things God has asked me to do didn’t match up. I struggled with that then and I found myself still struggling with it today. Today I realized something. As I said before, I respect this speaker a great deal and I believe that’s why I wasn’t able to bring myself to the conclusion that I knew was true even at the time. You see, that speaker was wrong.

It is true that much of the time, God doesn’t ask us to do things that we don’t want to do or wouldn’t be inclined to doing anyway. Sometimes these things might be a bit uncomfortable, but they are not things that we are truly fearful of doing. However, there are times when God does ask us to do things that aren’t just uncomfortable, but are things that make us afraid. They are things that we vehemently fight against God about because they seem so contrary to reason, logic, and even our emotions.

There have been several times God has asked me to do things in my life that I was fearful of doing and did not want to do. Some of those things still don’t make sense to me today. I fought with God against these things, yet I know he wanted me to do them. When the speaker told us that God wasn’t going to ask us to do something we didn’t want to do, I knew from my life experience that wasn’t true. At the time, I couldn’t think of any Biblical evidence to support my claim., but as I was walking home from church this morning, and trying to figure out why things were so difficult I was reminded of several Bible stories. There’s Jonah. For many people, the Book of Jonah seems out of place with much of the Old Testament. I now have a better understanding of why it is there. God asked Jonah to do something he really didn’t want to do. In fact, Jonah thought it would be wrong of him to perform the task that was being asked of him. Jonah fought with God and even tried to run away, but in the end he did what God asked of him. Or take Gideon. Gideon knew God was leading him, a simply farmer, to lead a rag-tag army against the army of an empire. He didn’t want to do it. He knew what God was asking him, but he kept telling God that he needed to see signs to know for sure. Or how about Ezekiel? Ezekiel was a very faithful prophet but at one point in his life God asked him to spend over a year lying first on one side of his body and then the other and to cook his food using his own feces. I’m sure if you’d ask Ezekiel if he wanted to do that he would respond that he was happy to do anything God asked of him, but I bet if you kept pestering him about it he would eventually respond that no he really didn’t enjoy laying on his side all the time or eating food cooked over his own burning crap, but he knew he was supposed to be doing it.

Or take Jesus himself. Jesus was fully divine, but he was also fully human. In the Garden of Gethsemane he asked God three times to save him from having to be sacrificed. Jesus knew what had to be done, but he would have rather avoided it if he could.

I keep reminding myself of that; every moment is a Gethsemane. Still the struggle continues and there’s a whole lot of stuff happening that I don’t understand and that upsets me. Life doesn’t seem any easier and I feel more confused than ever, but the remembrance and knowledge is encouraging. I guess it’s like they used to say at the end of every G.I. Joe cartoon: “knowing is half the battle.”

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