I admit it. I struggle with God. It is not a struggle with the sovereignty or goodness of God. My greatest struggle in prayer is rooted in a deep corner of my heart I often don’t want to acknowledge exists. Let me be clear; I believe God is good. I believe whatever happens, He can and will use it for His glory and the good of those who are called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28, Gen. 50:20). But still, if I were to be completely honest…
I’m afraid God will hurt me or someone I love.
I know this seems strange. Why would a good God, one identified inseparably with love, want to hurt me or someone I love?
In that deep corner of my heart, there is a fear associated with my faith. While I believe God is good and loving, I know sometimes the most refining element is fire. The strongest way to shape something is to strike it. The loudest voice comes through the most violent megaphone.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If I were to step back and examine my prayer life, honestly most of my prayers are pointed towards the avoidance of pain, the comfort of pleasures, and the soundness of a conscience of moral peace. However, according to Lewis, this leaves me only content to hear whispers and the even-keeled voice of a very thunderous Creator God.
This leads me to my point. I believe God is good. I have grown most spiritually in the dry times, the excruciating circumstances, and the painful moments of a broken world colliding with a sinful heart. Pain has been a means of growth by God’s grace.
Still, when I find myself praying for spiritual growth, for God to save my son, for my wife and I to radiantly display the gospel in our marriage, for gospel growth in our church, I fear God’s means will be cancer, a car wreck, or an intense season of trial. I believe God when He says the ends will be good, glory, and gospel advancement. I’m on board with the ends. I just fear God in the means.
As I consider this truth, and acknowledge I am likely not alone with this dark corner of my heart, I offer three things by God’s grace I am trying to remember.
1) “The light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5). This dark corner is not dark to God. I need to be honest with God and myself. God knows this fear. If anyone knows what it would be like to go through intense difficulty for the glory of God, it is Jesus Christ. He is a man who lost a father, was betrayed by His friends, was hated and challenged at every step, and ultimately was brutally murdered. No part of my heart is hidden from God. It’s okay to admit that it’s there.
2) “Do not be afraid.” This phrase appears roughly 33 times in the Scripture. God does not want us to fear. At the same time, He knows He can be scary. He knows life can be strained. He knows faith can be heavy. In reality, God has been much more honest with us about pain than we have been with Him. Death may have a sting, but it has no victory. Everything in between is simply the flailing about of a dragon that has already had its head cut off. Christ is risen.
3) “Though He slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to His face” (Job 13:15). While these words were said by Job, a man who experienced the most extreme aspect of my fear, they echo and epitomize the heart of the Psalms, the resilience of the prophets, and the steadfastness of the apostles. If Christ Jesus is the cornerstone of a great structure built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:19-22), and I am a brick in this structure, then this confession must be mine as it was of so many who went before. Either way, life will be difficult. Do I want to pretend I can avoid it or do I want to embrace it, the God who allows it, and be thankful God has been honest in His word that pain is a part of life? Though it is a part of life, it is not a part of eternity for those in Christ. As a result, I can walk in pain in light of the victory won and the goodness of a God who never leaves nor forsakes.
If we read the Scriptures, we know cancer, car wrecks, and catastrophe are just a part of life. We don’t have to explain it or try to reconcile it with an idea of a loving God. Love is not always comfortable. I love my wife not only in health, but in sickness. We need a larger perspective and definition of love.
While we may pray for a cure, Christ ultimately provides healing. That may mean healing the heart while the body decays. It may mean rest in the Spirit for one who cannot sleep in the body. It means Healing is greater than Curing and we are healed in Christ.
This dark corner of my heart in reality is not dark. It’s not even a corner. It’s the center of a heart struggling between wanting to be Lord of my life and admitting that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. One is fantasy. One is reality. What a wonderful reality that Christ has overcome and has not given us a Spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7, Rom. 8:15). He is honest. We can be honest with Him. In this, we can know the healing already from whatever injury may be to come.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33