Here we are in Africa, a land where, if ever it would seem difficult to trust God, it would be here. How do you account for all the pain here and still believe in a good God? Yet, if statistics are to believed, a majority of many African countries are Jesus-followers. And many of them have resolved this issue by affirming, “Yes, God is good!” It’s an oxymoron for many Westerners.
All of life is about learning to know and trust God. Most of my life, I’ve only known him from a distance. We’ve been like the couple in the movie Say Anything, waving at each other across the room at the party.
In 1990, I lost my job and was betrayed by two close friends. My world fell apart. God forced my hand. He had to destabilize me in order to woo me, so that I might depend on him and eventually trust him.
At the time, it didn’t feel like grace. I felt wounded and wretched and wanted to die. I had no language to sort through the shards of my life. I was so absolutely shattered and discombobulated that God was all I had left – I had nowhere left to turn. Ultimately, I sought him like a hungry animal looking for food. And he responded with tenderness. It was a long and terrible process, but it proved the reality of Jer. 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.”
One of the things that helped me is that I chose not to blame God for my wounds. A lot of people get stuck asking, “Why?” – bowing down at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead of bowing at the Tree of Life and worshiping. Read the end of the book of Job. God “is who he is.” He doesn’t have to answer to us. We won’t ever understand “Why?” until we cross over to the other side of eternity. So many people get hung up in No-man’s Land – demanding an explanation instead of choosing to trust a God who loves us and has the bigger picture.
Yesterday I caught up with a friend who was going through the same process, “I feel so raw,” she said. “I’ve spent so much time crying and asking questions.” She described it as a wilderness time.
It’s taking my friend a couple of years to find her way out of the wilderness – about what it took for me. Why God lets it take so stinkin’ long, I don’t know. I guess he figures it took us a long time to get into that mess and become thoroughly self- sufficient. Getting out of the mess, to be gracious, needs to proceed at an organic pace that allows us to grow into our new skins.
We don’t get to know people overnight and trusting them deeply takes longer. It takes years to develop a second sense about them, to understand why they do what they do. And God is the same way. He takes time.
Learning to trust God seems to require learning to stop relying on yourself so much. It means radical change at our core. Most of us don’t like change of any kind, much less surgery on our core self. Surgery hurts; it incapacitates and can even make us howl with pain.
God, the divine surgeon, is worth trusting. He loves us more than we can know. His wounding seems grievous, but it restores us to wholeness. If you find yourself under his knife, be still and learn to trust him. You will laugh again.