We have a natural sense of God as our protector and desire to seek His protection. We want His protection, especially in light of the fact that we can’t protect one another. When bad things happen, it’s like we long for God to step in, in a more direct way, and control things. We don’t ask such things when things are going “okay” (or as we’re making our own bad decisions). It’s like we want a “sovereign” God when it’s convenient.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of what it would be like to give a “negative” testimony about God. We’ve all heard the “God gets the glory” testimonies when things go well for us, when circumstances work out in the end. But what if we don’t get “the end” – what if we can only see the darkness and all we have to offer is the “where was God when … ?”

How do we go about sitting the blame at His doorstep? In learning how to live in tune with God, how do we deal with the negative things that happen to us? I know Christians who have no idea what it means to be with Him. Just as I know many self-proclaimed atheists who have a greater sense of how Christ lived with a sense of His grace, love, peace, and desire for social justice. Who understand a time to grieve, a time for lament, better than many who claim to follow Christ.

Maybe it boils down to our fairly flawed concepts of God. Sometimes it’s like we have to prove He even exists, or we believe that during our dark times, He always seems to be busy elsewhere. On the one hand, He’s pretty unrelatable, beyond anything our minds can even comprehend. Even the idea of trying to have a relationship with Him, of loving Him, or Him loving us, often staggers our imagination. On the other hand, we tend to “humanize” God, make Him relatable. To a degree, we have to in order to attempt to understand Him. But it’s like we have forgotten that Jesus was fully human, someone we can relate to and more importantly, someone who can relate to us.

We see God as outside of everything, picking and choosing at random when He chooses to intervene. Saying that He’s sovereign, but not knowing what that means. We may have the idea that all things are under His ultimate control, but hate when He has to let some things play out to not run roughshod over our free will. It’s like what we have to sometimes do as parents: we have to let out kids make their bad decisions and live by the consequences of them in order to let them be formed into the people we want them to be. Other times, we’re seemingly powerless, and have to watch our children go through unfortunate or tragic circumstances, with our children not always realizing how we grieve with them.

There does seem to be a great mystery in when God chooses, or can, to intervene; and when He doesn’t in order to fulfill His greater scheme of love. Sometimes we simply want to be shown how things are, all around us, written in us; we sense when things aren’t how they should be and long for how things were meant to be. In the mean times, in the darkness, there may be nothing good in the situation, but we still believe. We want to trust in the belief that God grieves with us, alongside us. In the frustration of not being able to protect the ones you love, the situation still sucks. So sometimes I have to honestly cry out:

I’m still angry. I’m still hurting. I don’t know what good you’re going to bring out of this. I don’t know what lessons you’re trying to teach through all of this. It’s not fair, but it’s not like my sense of fairness is greater than Yours. It’s not like I have a greater desire for justice than You. I don’t love my people more than You do. Help me to have the faith to believe that you are good. That you are in control.

May all of your expectations be frustrated,
May all of your plans be thwarted,
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child
And can sing and dance in the love of God,
Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

• The Benediction by Brennan Manning

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