Many times God doesn’t give answers…
He gives better questions
Many times God doesn’t give answers…
He gives better questions
The journey of discipleship is mostly a slow and gradual process. We make a sincere commitment to following our Savior, we make him the central force in our life, and then we incrementally become more aligned to his nature. Slowly our behavior pulls itself into harmony with our conscience, and one day we look back and are amazed at how far he has brought us.
But every now and again the changing of the heart is not so effortless or subtle. At some moments we come to a critical juncture, one that will make a dramatic impact one way or another. For now that we have become improved, and can see more clearly, we finally realize that a long-held pillar of our belief is deeply flawed. Where before it seemed a critical foundation of truth, we now see it as an attempt to shore up our childish misconceptions.
To topple it seems a terrifying prospect, though, as we are uncertain what else might break if we do. Is it possible to let go of a misconception without letting go of everything else along with it? If the rotting wood is a piece of your foundation, what happens when it is removed?
I once faced this very dilemma after I had been cleaning up my soul for nearly a year. With the Lord’s help many layers of grime had been cleaned from my windows, and I was finally starting to see a clearer view of reality. And through them I suddenly came to the realization that maybe God wasn’t the severe and condemning Father I had always made him out to be. I knew the scriptures said “God is love,” but I had always seen Him as “tough love.” He punished me for my own good, I believed. My default prayer always began with “I’m sorry for…”
But now, this image just wasn’t lining up anymore. It didn’t fit with the new God I was discovering, and I felt as though God was hurt that I continued to approach Him in that manner. I was actively becoming a better person, and it didn’t have anything to do with a God who punished me into it. He had been overflowing me with grace, not fear, and that had been what made the change in me.
Was it heresy to let go of the old image of God, to try approaching Him in a different way? A part of me insisted yes, but another part said it had to happen, or else I would be forever limited. And in between those two I was amazed that I simply got to choose. Truth is truth, no matter what, but to align with it is a personal choice.
In the end, I chose the reality that I felt was truer: that of a kind and loving God.
In my previous study I considered how each of us has our own personal beam or mote within the eye. As flawed humans we all have a bias, and as a result see patterns in the world that are not there. However we never see our own biases as biases, we see them as empirical truths, inseparable from the foundations of reality.
If we are lucky, one day we will have our perspective irreconcilably challenged, such that we cannot deny that we were wrong. There are few blessings as wonderful as realizing that we have been wrong. For knowing that we were wrong is a prerequisite to becoming better.
But in that effort to become better some confounding questions arise. Now we know that our personal truths were flawed…how can we have confidence that the next truths we settle on will be any better? If we humans are fundamentally flawed, then are we doomed to just always hold fractured philosophies?
With this study I want to consider how we go from a broken belief system to a sure one. How can be confident in our principles, after we were let down by our previous ones? How can we know when we know rightly? How can we not be paralyzed by the fear that we will still make mistakes even as we try our best? How can we accept the guidance of wise leaders, while also accepting that even wise leaders will have some opinions that are wrong?
I would be curious to see how you have dealt with these conundrums in your own life? How do you avoid crippling yourself with doubts? Have you ever had to reconstruct your beliefs after one of your pillars was toppled? What is the core foundation of your belief system now?
Whichever belief system you subscribe to, are you a good one? Do you believe in it wholeheartedly? In my youthful years I was convinced that I was as devout a disciple as there could be! Later I came to appreciate how little I really knew in my heart. This moment of self-doubt led me to explore my faith, and I would say that as I result I am a stronger disciple now than when I was young…though also far more tempered in how I describe that spiritual strength.
Of course there are also those that think they are weak in their faith, but when tested are surprised at how well it holds. Also there are those that are a disciple in name only, openly admitting that they don’t really follow the teachings they have been given.
Honest self-appraisal is the first step towards changing oneself, and no matter how positive or negative the outcome of that appraisal, one is progressing just by having done it. So long as one remains deluded about the convictions of their own soul, there is nothing for them to do. With this study I’d like to consider how we can take an honest inventory of ourselves, and work on what we find.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about the development of your own spiritual maturity. What dramatic shifts have you had in your perceptions of your faith-commitment? What events caused you to see yourself more clearly? How did that awareness enable to you to reach for something more?
There is an interesting dilemma that many experience in the gospel. They are taught of a God that is ever-near, full of compassion, and able to be petitioned for one’s daily needs. These are beautiful and encouraging thoughts, ones that the inner soul desperately craves for.
However then there is this matter of a God unseen. Initially it can be hard to resolve the notion of an ever-present Father with the reality of never directly perceiving this entity. God appears to be lurking just out sight, only able to be guessed at, and never truly known.
It would seem that we have been consigned to a state of frustration, ever wanting to know God more, but lacking the capacity to have our fill of Him. And yet Jesus promised that we would, in fact, be able to be filled and never left wanting again. I have found this statement to be true, though it frankly surprised me that it was.
With this study I would like to explore how God discloses Himself by degrees to those that come seeking Him, and how He does so in unexpected ways. We will consider how He is able to meet our need for divinity, even while remaining behind a shroud. Finally we will seek to understand the reasons behind His methodologies, exploring the reasons for His perceived absence.
In the meantime, have you ever found yourself wishing for a more immediate connection with God? Did He ever answer that need, even if not in the way you expected? What advice can you offer for how a neophyte can maintain patience while waiting to know God better?
I gave a sermon in church a little bit ago, and while I was studying for it I had my eyes opened to a message about how some people knowing what is good, and some people do what is good, but neither one of these alone is quite the same as being what is good.
And I know that what God intends for all of us is to be the good. He doesn’t want us to be limited to just knowing theory or only doing good things out of duty. He wants our very hearts to change, for us to become His children. That’s what His gospel is really geared towards.
I felt like I only scratched the surface of this topic when I was preparing for that sermon, and now I want to really dig in deeper. I’ll start tomorrow with the passage that first opened my mind up to this idea, though, that of the rich young ruler asking Jesus what he needed to inherit eternal life.
In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear whether you’ve noticed this same distinction in your study of the gospel. Any insights as to how one actually makes the transition from a knower or a doer to a becomer? What’s been your own experience in that process?
Lately I’ve realized that my prayers are very inwardly focused. I’ve made great progress in exploring my heart, I am learning how to separate the wants from the needs of my soul, and I am better praying for my will to be aligned with what is actually “right.” All of that is good, but I still feel at a loss when it comes to praying for others.
My greatest hesitation is simply due to the fact that I can’t examine someone else’s soul in the same way that I can search my own. I find a lot of my prayers for other people follow a pattern of “please allow that they may have this blessing…unless that’s not really what they should have…in which case, I don’t know, just bless them with whatever it is they actually do need?…”
It’s not at all a question of whether I should be praying for others, but more of how I can do so in a way that lends real confidence to those prayers? I know the scriptures have some mighty examples of people praying for others, and I have decided to try and glean from their examples.
And with that in mind I suppose I might as well go straight to the source. I will conduct my study with a prayer directly from Jesus Christ’s own mouth, one entirely focused on those he cares for. I am talking, of course, about the Great Intercessory Prayer found in John 17.
Tomorrow we’ll get started with verses 1-3 of this chapter. In the meantime, is this a common dilemma for anyone else? If you’re willing to share, I would love to hear what you have done to bring more power to your prayers!