One of the most important posts on this blog is entitled A Faith Forged in Relationship. There I write, “God doesn’t ask us to trust him blindly. In Scripture and in our lives, he has always revealed himself…revealed his character and made sure that we never have to trust in One we don’t know or understand.”
In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being consumed or affected. A catalyst can also be a person whose energy causes others to become enthusiastic or lively. We like those people. We usually use the word to mean a person or thing that hastens an event or a change.
These definitions kinda describe God, wouldn’t you say? He is the cause of everything: the universe, life, beauty, goodness. Yet he is not depleted. Creation is suffused with his glory, but that wonder remains constant. Continue reading
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck…I am worn out calling for help.” (Ps. 69:1, 3)
While driving across town I meditated on an assurance the Lord had given me the day before about a problem I faced. Then, there came a familiar shoulder tap.
“Invite me into this area of your life.”
It took me by surprise. I thought, You mean with all the prayer, begging, and pleading I’ve done about this, I have never invited you? And again:
“You are seeking my intervention. But I desire to give you process.”
The Spiritual Life
What God had already taught me about lifelong spiritual process was in that moment scaled down to the very practical areas of my life that I may have always quickly blessed with a prayer and continued to struggle with on my own. After all, those areas are not “spiritual”, as spiritual goes, although he is concerned, right?
Wrong. All of life is spiritual. It is difficult for us to comprehend God’s ability to see in one moment our lives from beginning to ending, including all we’ll ever face, and how he will providentially add and subtract people, opportunities, and events and dispel evil plans—let alone know what role our own choices will play—all in making us who we are and are becoming.
So we err when we compartmentalize our lives and relegate God and his sovereignty to certain corners of our thinking and practice.
Things We Cannot See
I realized that although God has heard my every prayer and cry for help, there is something deeper he desires to make me see. I couldn’t help but feel that despite all my praying, begging, and pleading, I may have never truly trusted God with my case.
We all know that a wounded dog is a difficult one to help because it is actively engaged in protecting its wound. We can be like that dog: “God, I need your help! But don’t touch me here because I hurt. If you touch me and make me feel more pain, I’m going to bite you! So, just let me alone; I’ll deal with it by myself.”
In our devoutness we’d like to believe that we’re fully open to God’s dealings in our lives. Theoretically, yes, we usually are open to him. But practically it quickly becomes a different story—because it’s not pretty and easy when he starts touching and cleaning those wounds.
We cannot see what he can. He understands far better than we that a problem, whether a sin, a personal flaw, or a troubling practical matter, is not always a self-contained issue. Sometimes what we are demanding be quickly remedied, as if plucking a weed from the ground, has grown tendrils and affected other areas of our lives. For instance, once I pulled a growing root off an old house only to find that it grew from the house into the ground and the full length of the yard onto another property; where I severed it wasn’t half the distance to the source.
So, when we ask for God’s help, he may ask us for something deeper—an invite. It’s as if he says, “Are you sure? Do you trust me? Because to heal this might hurt a little in other ways.”
Process: A Holistic Approach
But what a grace it is! It is a holistic approach to dealing with our lives. Sure, he’s God and he could think problems out of our lives in an instant. But we’re not automatons; we don’t need to be fixed. We’re humans in need of healing. A holistic approach considers and respects the spirit-soul-body makeup he gave us; and it is rare that something affecting one part of us will not also affect another.
A holistic approach also harmonizes with that defining characteristic of God: his redeeming nature. Consider the gods of mythology and some religions today: when the deity is not pleased or mortals are wayward, what is the response? Rage. Vindication. Death. Such is not the nature of God, but rather he takes pleasure in renewal, renovation, refashioning. He glorifies. He begs the attention of a watching world that the irascible, mangy, emaciated, flea-ridden hound you see now will soon be the gorgeous, healthy, and devoted dog it was designed to be.
Getting More Than You Expected
God’s desire is to heal and deliver us, but he wants our cooperation to learn what he needs to teach us about ourselves. He wishes to show us how our emotions may be leading us astray or how our attitude is wrong. He cares to let us see how undisciplined we may be, keeping ourselves defeated. He hopes to uncover sensitive areas of our lives and administer inner healing and release. He must show us how we may be working ourselves into Satan’s hold. And on and on…
This is what “I desire to give you process” means.
I don’t mean to be unloving here, but stop waiting on a miracle because it probably won’t happen. Remember the first part—“You are seeking my intervention”? As we’ve experienced them, miracles are uncommon. God seems to prefer process because it engages and perfects us.
At this point the wrong approach is to run away, fleeing further pain, which is something to be considered. How many times has God made a promise to you about a matter and you celebrated and were confident in his answer only to see the situation seemingly crash and burn—and then you had to go through an extended process to discover the true victory he described to you? But in the end, were you not grateful and better off for taking the long way around? The experience worked more in you than you gaining the quick fix you sought.
Let me encourage you not to grow weary when after inviting God your life becomes even more topsy-turvy. It is God positioning you for the answer. He’s not hurting you; he’s blessing you. He’s renovating the house, gutting what’s outdated and useless to start anew and give you what you’ve only dreamed of and never thought could be yours.
I was a student leader the latter half of my undergrad years. That role along with school work, a job, regular exercise, and minimal recreation was sometimes exhausting. So I periodically took weekend rests to rejuvenate myself. Continue reading
The king of Aram was flustered. His every plan against Israel was being discovered, and he was ready to make an end of the traitor in his camp. Then one of his men explained to him, “My lord, Elisha the prophet reports everything you say, even your pillow talk!” I embellish but the news must have surprised the king, and it humors me just a little. Continue reading