I never thought I was the kind of person who would get mad at God when things got tough, who would think she deserved better.
But, here I am.
Two guys who’ve influenced me greatly say the following about this subject:
If, like the elder brother [in the parable of the ‘prodigal son’], you seek to control God through your obedience, then all your morality is just a way to use God to make him give you the things in life you really want. …I knew a woman who had worked for many years in Christian ministry. When chronic illness overtook her middle age, it threw her into despair. Eventually she realized that deep in her heart she had felt that God owed her a better life, after all she had done for him. That assumption made it extremely difficult for her to climb out of her pit, though climb she did. The key to her improvement, however, was to recognize the elder-brother mind-set within.” Tim Keller, pp. 38, 42 in The Prodigal God.
Let me propose a radical thought: Maybe we have it all wrong! Maybe the Christian life is not about ‘doing right’ to ‘get blessed.’ Maybe the Christian life is not about the blessings of life we so badly want and doggedly pursue. Maybe our obedience and faithfulness are to be energized by a very different motive than receiving the good and legitimate blessines we long to experience in this life.” Larry Crabb, pp. 25-26 in The Pressure’s Off.
Sure, I obey God the best I can, but I don’t think that’s what makes me think He owes me.
- It’s that I try to be “real” and “transparent.”
- It’s my commitment to His Word and to not diminish His Glory through bad theology.
- It’s that I want to repent whenever necessary in order to know Jesus better, no matter the cost.
Yep, He owes me.
Sometimes I think the opposite. After seeing so many others’ lives going well compared to mine, I think “Gee, God, am I such a loser that this is all I deserve?” That idea really scares me: I’ve spent my life striving not to be a loser.
After more than a decade of crappy stuff (some of which I’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog), I start to think that the pain will never leave: that this is my life and I’d better get used to it. I get cynical. I stop caring that God has my best interest in mind. Hey, if this is His “good” for me, no thanks.
I get to the point where, at times, I want pain relief more than I want Jesus (so much for that desire to repent!).
Forget the Holiday at Sea, just give me some mud to play with… NOW!
The good news is that I think I recognize my elder-brother mentality, my bargaining with God. Maybe I have hope.
The Cross brought me back from my doubts and it may help me here.
- The Cross tells me I am so evil that I deserve far worse than crappy circumstances – it took Jesus’s death and separation from the Father to deal with my sin.
- The Cross tells me that me that I am not a loser: Jesus loved me enough to die for me.
- The Cross tells me that my crappy circumstances really are good gifts, borne by the same love that sent God’s Son to the Cross. (see Romans 8: 32)
I believe this stuff in my head, but not always in the part of my heart where I still bargain with God.
Oh, Lord: Help me to more deeply believe the truths of the Cross. Help me to truly thank you for ALL of my life’s circumstances (and to be more aware of the really wonderful things than of the icky ones). Help me to worship You as the Apostle Paul did:
Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and His ways beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. ” Romans 11: 33ff