Monday, October 29, 2007

The God of the Good Life

Who said Christianity is an easy life? Some Christians do: They claim you just need to pray and God will answer your prayers as your expected. If not, they argue, then you've probably failed to exercise faith or you have an unconfessed sin that's hindering God's blessing. All you need to do is get rid of these problems and your prayers will be answered.

For the sake of discussion I divide Christianity into two echelons of believers. One level is composed of Christians who claim God is always performing miracles on their behalf. This is the God of the Good Life, as I call Him. These Christians observe God's hand everywhere and in everything.

The other group of Jesus’ followers seems to always struggle in life. They live with illnesses that linger and marriages that only become worse.

I've actually never met anyone in the first category. Well . . . yes, I have. I have encountered Christians who claim to hear from God on a continual basis. Every event in their life is another indicator of God's intervention. Yet these believers have just as many problems as anyone else . . . sometimes even more.

While the poor starve in third world countries and suffer with the HIV-AIDS epidemic, God is finding these higher echelon disciples prime parking spots in glorious malls so they can purchase the latest fashions from DKNY or Bebe's. Don't you just love how Jesus reinforces our self-indulgences?

Most people I know are patiently waiting on the Lord to answer their prayers, heal an illness or help them find employment. These are the people who rarely hear from God but tough it out day-by-day praying, trusting and growing in their trials. They don't seek the Lord for parking spots but for healing from malignant skin cancer. They are fed up with prayer gimmicks, formulas and the chanting of scripture passages to try to convince God to answer their prayers. They refuse to utter meaningless repetitional prayers that are somehow suppose to catch God's attention and motivate Him to care. To these faithful devotees, God is the God of the Good and the Not So Good Life . . . the real life .

Prayer in the hands of the miracle-seeking crowd has the potential to become cruel and heartless. The God of the higher echelon is a God who wants to heal and bless but His hands are tied by our limitations. Such a God is impotent and useless. His ability to help us is bound because we don't have the faith the size of a medicine ball, or we just haven't attended the right healing meeting or been prayed over by the right prayer warrior.

How shallow life becomes when all the disappointments we face become our fault. It sounds like the philosophy of "The Secret" with its law of attraction. Such philosophies reduce God to a weakling who is controlled by the negative and positive things we say or attract. He doesn't know whether He's coming or going. In fact, if God is limited by my negative or positive attitudes, then I am more powerful than God Himself and I've reduced Him to a wooden cosmic puppet.

In contrast, the God of the lower echelon heals people who have no faith and allows people with great faith to die in pain. He cannot be reduced to a formula. This deity does not run from hurt and disappointment. He sticks around when the parking lot is full and there are absolutely no parking spaces.

I love the God of the "lower echelon" because He allows us to be real. He permits us to cry when the hurt of loneliness is too much to bear. He holds us close when the radiologist delivers bad news about our x-rays. He's near in death and in life. He's the God who stands near us when our hurt is so unbearable forcing us to spew out a string of curses . . . some aimed at God Himself. Yet He is also the God who can perform a supernatural intervention when it will bring Him glory.

Sadly, the God of the Good Life is only near when healing is granted but far away when death knocks at our door. For those who only seek the God of miracles, perhaps you're missing out on who God really is? You see, your trust in God runs out when there are no parking spaces that open up. Your God can only cast blame on your lack of faith or your failure to launch yourself into the supernatural.

As for me, I'll take the God who lets me be real. I want the God who catches my tears and speaks warmth into a heart cold from being too alone.

When the parking lot is full, I will keep my motor running, and keep on seeking another spot even if I need to walk a few blocks to my destination. I'll thank Him either way and know at the end of the day my relationship with Him is as honest as can be.

I don't need to rationalize or scramble for a reasonable spiritual explanation for why things do not always work out. Maybe I'll never know. But in my heart I know I am under His care whether I walk from that far away parking spot in the bright shining sun or in the dismal driving rain.

1 comment:

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