Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Seeds of Doubt: Doubting A Good God's Anger

Lamentations is a book about the suffering of a people in great national crisis.  Judah has been exiled, their land has been taken from them, children are dead, men and women have been killed by the enemy and this all happens after the great revival under one of Judah's godly kings, young Josiah.  You can bet that the Hebrews were wondering how a good God could be so angry with them.

The writer of Lamentations, probably the great weeping prophet Jeremiah, ends the lament with the haunting question, ‘Have You (O LORD) utterly rejected us? Are You exceedingly angry with us?’ (5:22).

You may have had this question during your own suffering.  Or perhaps you haven't suffered but you wonder why the Bible would concern itself with such an angry God.  God's anger has caused great doubt in many great thinkers.  Why would God be an angry God?

Some theologians, pastors, and Christians try to deflect questions about the wrath of God.  They often try to focus on the love of God that is so clearly expressed in the New Testament.  Yet the centrality of the cross of Jesus shows us that God still gets angry and that His wrath had to be met.  I would like to suggest that that anger of God can be of great comfort during suffering and seasons of doubt.

Let's return to that question of Jeremiah, "God, are you mad at me?"  In his prayer, the prophet assumes that God is personal and that we can relate to Him.  The anger of God can actually give you reason to rejoice - God cares.  He is not impersonal.  He is not like a Father who doesn't care where his kids are or what they are doing.  If you remove anger from God's response to sin He will immediately become impersonal and more of a force than a person who cares for His kids.

One man, Abraham J Heschel put it so clearly when he wrote these words.  God, he explained,

  is … moved and affected by what happens in the world, and reacts accordingly. Events and human actions arouse in Him joy or sorrow, pleasure or wrath. He is not conceived as judging the world in detachment. He reacts in an animate and subjective manner and thus determines the value of events.

Thus anger is God’s sign that He still cares. It is the fabric out of which a more enduring friendship can be forged. Anger, 'breaks through indifference. It smashes through apathy.’ 

So God’s anger is not despotic, unreasonable, or whimsical; it is related to violations of the covenant He made with His people and therefore, in a way, it is a sign that He has not abandoned either His people or His plan."

If my child were to come home and tell me that he had cheated on a test I would be angry.  The more I love my child the more broken I will be over their sin.  If someone else's child comes home and tells me the same thing, I am not angry with them in the same way that I am angry with my child.  Why?  Because I am deeply connected and I deeply love my sons and daughters.  God's anger is not a reason to doubt.  God's anger is a reason to believe that He is fulfilling His promise to be your Father God who loves you as His child.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Seeds of Doubt: Trusting Other People

As part of the Seeds of Doubt series, I am spending some time on my blog trying to answer some of the survey responses that came in for the Seeds of Doubt series.

When asked what causes you the most doubt, one person responded, "When I have to rely on other people to achieve a good outcome."  We live in community whether we like it or not.  We constantly have to rely on other people.  We might have to rely on people for big things and big projects at work or at school or we might have to rely on people we do not even know for seemingly smaller things - such as a minimum wage teenager cooking our burger at a fast food joint.  Reliance on others is a part of life.  If we didn't in some way rely on others without doubt we would drive ourselves crazy.  In other words, if we took our doubt of others to it's fullest extreme we would not be able to function in life even at the most basic level.  Reliance on self is an illusion.

The problem is that people fail all the time.  Sometimes they fail without intending to and sometimes they have malicious intent.  Sometimes people fail because they make a mistake and other times people fail us because they want to hurt us.  What should our response be?  Should we doubt everyone who wants to help or everyone who we have to work and live with because people fail?  Should our response be anger?  Should we try to do everything on our own?

In the church, people fail all of the time.  I fail the congregation of Stone's Throw at least a few times a week and those are only the things I am aware of!  If you are human you have failed those who depend on you.  What do we do when we fail or we have been brought down by others?

Doubt is an opportunity for us to look to Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of faith.  When we doubt we either swim to the deeper waters of faith or we crash and burn in the valleys of unbelief.  When we doubt others we must look to Jesus Christ who cannot be doubted in his intention or accomplishment.  Jesus forgave those who failed him.  Jesus did not base his mission success on whether or not his disciples failed him.  In fact, when his disciples failed him whether on purpose (Judas Iscariot) or out of cowardice (Peter) or just plain stupidity, God used it for His own purposes and glory.

When other fail you, do not allow it cause fear or anxiety in your heart.  When you are paired up with people from work on a project, when your spouse falls short, when your kids embarrass you, or when your classmates take all the credit, do not doubt that God is using this experience and relationship in your life to His glory and His purpose.  Allow your doubt to lead you to Jesus who will perfect your faith.