It all began in the garden of Eden, when the birds were singing and the lion was napping in the embrace of the lamb, a thought entered the mind of man, a lie was spoken and doubt was planted, and we believe it still today: “God is holding out on us.”
Whether or not we consciously admit it, we believe it. No matter how long and how hard we speak to the opposite that God is love and He is nurturing and He is kind, there is still the part of us that doubts, that wonders, that thinks the same corrosive thought. Oh satan is good, a smarmy charmer in snakeskin, he knew just what to say to make us doubt. So, when the question was posed, “Didn’t God say not to eat from this tree?” He knew good and well, that the next rational thought would be, “Why?” He waited, no doubt with an eternal smirk on his face as he planned the fall of all mankind as Eve searched for an answer, and then he pounced, forever bringing to question the love and honesty and Truth of God, “You will not surely die…You will be like Him.” You can sense the audible gasp in the garden! What? You mean, our Creator, the One that says we are created in His image, the One that loves us and made us, He doesn’t want us to be like Him?” And the lie sets root and the thought sets deep and all mankind is left to doubt, “God is holding out on us.”
Isn’t this the very lie that holds us back? We would be bolder in our faith, speak louder, reach farther, live courageously, hope unswervingly, but what if…? What price will we pay? How much will He ask? Can I trust Him? We cautiously wade out, not trusting that the water can hold us…that walking is too hard, or the step wasn’t small enough or large enough, and so not even two steps from the bow we are clinging to the boat. We shout to the people in the boat, “Look. See? Trust Him!” and the whole time they are watching with eyes wide, disbelieving because why would they even venture to the side if you can’t even let go?
The lie becomes more pervasive when we face the unexpected. When we get the diagnosis we didn’t want. When we hear the words we never thought we’d hear. When we face the circumstance that we never wanted and even begged God about. When we pray in belief and still our loved one dies. These are the moments that the lie wraps itself around our timid faith and we begin to call into question every good, loving, nurturing, kind characteristic of God. And the enemy whispers, “He’s holding out on you.” We agree, though we might never admit it. “Yes! He could have healed her! He could have rescued her! He could have saved her! He could have ended it!” And bitterness grows…and distance deepens…because the God that we now picture fixes us with a steely gaze and could care less about our pain, and isn’t as powerful as He once appeared. And the enemy sneers…because he’s given you the picture that he wants you to see, the picture that will strip you of hope and rob you of peace and kill your faith. The same picture that snake’s been painting for a very long time.
But, I don’t find this picture of God. Even in the desperate sin of man and the overwhelming sadness of misfortune and illness and pain, there is not a single glimpse of this God. We can believe that lie only so long as we don’t pick up the Word of God…because when we pick up the Word of God – the reflection of Himself, His Story of His nature – we find far more. We see the eyes of a loving Father that even in the fall of man, protected and nurtured them to be a mighty nation. We see the love of a Saviour that looked beyond the grime of sin and shame to the heart and need of a people that would surely die without His sacrifice. We see a gentle Shepherd that will leave the 99 in the gates protected and provided for to search out the little bleat that insinuates danger. We see the passionate Lover that will romance us and seek for us and all the while desires the joy of knowing that we seek and long for Him. We see the Almighty God that calms the seas and heals the unlovely and sets the imprisoned and depressed free. We see the Friend that sticks closer than a Brother that weeps and grieves at loss and beckons us closer so that He might comfort our tear soaked souls. We see this God, Who gave it all, Who took it all, Who bore it all…not because He was holding out on us…but because He wants to HOLD US. Our desperation leads us to His grace. Our fear seeks His peace. Our longing needs His fulfillment…and He doesn’t hold back. He gives. The enemy knows this…and knows the power that this picture of God holds…a power that he will never have, a love that he’ll never know.
So the rational question we all face in the midst of adversity is “Why?” I’m asking it, too. But the answer isn’t “God is holding out on you.” I know this. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that my God is loving, caring, nurturing, forgiving, giving, and compassionate…and though He may sometimes tell us “No” it’s never because He’s punishing us. I believe this. Enough to step out of the boat. Enough to pray again, and believe again and hope again and trust again…and if you could see me now, you’d see that I’ve let go of the side of the boat.