Why I’m not afraid to try to understand God
Have you ever been reading a story from the Old Testament, like maybe the story of Noah and the great flood and wondered “What in the world, even?” How does this God who wipes out an entire world reconcile with the statement “God is love”? Because that looks like a lot of things, but love isn’t really one of them. Maybe judgement or justice. But love?
I’ve been wondering these things for a long time.
A really long time. But I was never brave enough to say them out loud.
I grew up in the church from the time I was born. I chose Jesus as my Savior at a very young age. I was active in youth group. I graduated from a liberal arts Bible college and took eight semesters of various Bible classes. I sat in a multitude of chapel services over those four years. I’ve raised my own children in the church. We’re all there for every service.
And do you know what? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone try to tackle that question from the pulpit. Now maybe someone did on one of those mornings when I was a bleary-eyed momma of an infant or a know-it-all teen, but I sure don’t remember it. And I KNOW I never would have dared to ask that question out loud during my Bible college days.
How can we serve a God who is such a paradox?
He is completely just, yet completely loving. He smites an entire race, yet He bends down to listen to me. To me.
I struggle with this.
I’ve been reading a book by Sarah Bessey called Out of Sorts in which she tackles the subject of how our faith evolves and changes throughout our lives. As a forty-something woman full of wondering, this topic resonated deeply with me. The faith of my childhood was not the faith of my teen years or the faith of my college years or the faith of my young mommy days or even the faith that I reckoned and struggled with as recently as last year or a month ago. Time, circumstances and more have shaped my faith in new ways over the years.
At times my faith feels foreign and uncomfortable rather than safe and familiar.
In fact, it often feels that way.
The questions I never dared to ask out loud or even in a quiet soul-whisper five years ago, are the questions I now welcome. They are breaking down walls in my heart that kept my faith so safe and compartmentalized.
About halfway through Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey spent a whole chapter talking about how we try to define God, to understand Him, to learn about Him through the Bible. And this was the very question she dug into that topic with. I felt so vindicated. I’m not the only one! She’s brave to write those words, don’t you think?
Her answer is one I’ve been mulling over for weeks now. I keep circling around back to it, tasting the words over and over, resting in the freedom I’ve felt since I first read them.
The Old Testament was written by men (and I absolutely believe it was divinely inspired by God!), but it was limited to their understanding and interpretation of how God moved in our world just as I’m limited by my own understanding when I read their words. How they penned the histories of the Great Flood, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the Battle of Jericho, and more, was directly affected by their very humanity. Was it inspired? I absolutely believe it was. But I find comfort in remembering that it was still penned by human hands with finite human understanding.
They knew what God did, but couldn’t begin to fathom His thought processes or all of the why’s to any of those situations.
It makes me think of how today we often face the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We believe God is good, yet we struggle to understand why, nonetheless. We say the right answer: “Because sin. Sin entered the world. And it screwed everything up. God doesn’t ever choose for bad things to happen, but sin …” We say it. We believe it. But then (and maybe this is just me, but I’m guessing it’s you, too) we add a little prayer “I believe it, but help my unbelief, Jesus.”
“But God … “
I don’t know about you, but those are some of my very favorite words in the Bible. They are always the preamble to some earth-shattering, yet oh-so-comforting truth.
But God sent His Son to earth. And through Jesus we get to see God living among men. Jesus teaches us through His actions, through His words, through His tears, through His joy, through His suffering and ultimately through His sacrifice, who God is.
He becomes a living, breathing God here on earth so that we can understand who God really is. He shows us how God loves. He helps us understand the profound love God has for us. He says over and over “It is written …” and then He explains the what, why, how, who. He leaves this earth and the veil is torn from top to bottom and leaves us with a better understanding of the truth “God is love”.
Does that answer suddenly make everything as clear as a Crystal Pepsi from the 90’s for me? Well, no. Actually, it’s really not even as clear as a bowl of chicken noodle soup. But this idea that when I struggle to understand God, I can go to what the Bible says about Jesus, God in human form, for my answers, comforts me to no end. And I grab hold of the truths about God’s unfailing love, about His new mercies and many more that are also woven so beautifully into the Old Testament as well all of the other stories woven through it.We know 'God is love' but do we really believe it?Click To Tweet
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