In the last blog, over a month ago, I said we would look at ‘spiritual battle’ little did I know that was where I was heading.
Over the last 5 months I’ve had to deal with a minor illness that has had a significant impact on my life from day to day activities including aspects of housework, looking after the family to having to take time off work at crucial moments which resulted in missing out on significant events.
One of the biggest decisions I had to make was to defer my place in the Great North Run in September for which I’ve been training for a year. During this time, I’ve felt frustrated and annoyed that the entire year had seemed a waste of time and that I had let my sponsors down.
I was even tempted not to blog anymore and doubted that I had anything significant to say to anyone seeing as I was a failure and hadn’t lost that much weight anyway.
However, during this time, I have gained tremendous empathy with those who struggle with chronic illnesses that have no earthly solution or treatment available to them. The limitation of this human body has an enormous impact on people’s lives and the choices they are able to make. It is not an excuse for self-pity or a means of not engaging with everyday life it is an obstacle that needs adapting to.
Over these last 6 weeks I have been reminded of some teaching I was following about Job and how he dealt with the difficulties of life. His servants were murdered, his sheep slaughtered, his children died in a storm he had lost everything. His friends blamed him, tormented him with verbal abuse and basically said he must have deserved it if God let it happen. He then went on to experience horrendous ailments and suffering we could only imagine, his wife had enough of seeing all this suffering and encouraged him to give up and die then he would find relief.
However, Job didn’t give up, Job continued to trust, it wasn’t a blind trust it was a measured trust, it was an honest trust. He questioned God during his trials, he gave an honest human response at times but he never cursed God.
It was during this time of suffering that Job came face to face with the truth that God has complete autonomy on his creation. Job learnt that all things whether good or bad are overseen by God. Job chose to trust God despite his circumstances because he knew God had the right to choose because God was the Creator.
We find this a difficult concept to understand, our pride won’t allow us to accept that God has the final say about each of our lives, our pride fights against this truth. It is easier to reject God than to accept he could be responsible for everything that happens to us.
We are obsessed with opposites, it’s one of the first things we teach our children;
Hot/Cold, Black/White, Right/Left, Right/Wrong
These concepts seem to build within us a sense of justice, a sense of fairness. Only one view can be right, both aspects can’t be true at the same time.
This is a human mentality, it is the source of many wars and battles. Your wrong because I’m right! This mentality limits what we are and what we can achieve, it limits our relationships with one another and it limits our relationship with God.
God doesn’t work in absolutes because he is absolute.
God himself is the source of what is right and what is wrong. God is the Creator of all we have, all we know and all we will ever know. Even in our determination to live independently of God, we are ultimately limited by the boundaries He sets.
Jesus tells us in the bible that ‘I am the way and the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me’ John 14:6.
Creation’s source of truth is God himself therefore everything that comes from him is truth, truth is part of who he is, it is his character and he can-not be changed. God doesn’t compromise or change his mind because he is the source of truth.
This is a scary prospect for many of us because we view God through the lens of suspicion, we agree with the devil and assume God’s out to get us. We look at the troubles in the world and conclude that if bad things happen then God must be bad. This is because we are convinced by the ‘law of cause and effect’.
‘If I do this then that will happen’. ‘If I make good choices then good things will happen to me’. ‘If I choose to eat healthy foods then I will always be healthy’. ‘If I make bad choices then bad things will happen to me’.
However, the reality we see around us screams at us that there is something wrong in our thinking. There are many people who do bad things but good things still come their way. There are many innocent people around the world who are hurt or die through natural disasters or by the hand of another human being.
Our human effort for justice screams – unfair! I demand my right to absolutes good or bad, right or wrong.
However the truth is God does the choosing.
This came to a head for me in a small but significant way. For the past year I have been training for a half marathon and have been eating much healthier, keeping hydrated and eating my greens. However, I ended up in A & E being told I was dehydrated despite drinking 4 litres of water most days. It turned out I had a kidney stone which was the product of my new found healthy eating. The stone was made from the additional protein I had been eating which had oxidised with the additional spinach I was eating. I was furious I had never suffered from kidney stones ever, even during the time I had abused my body but the time I was making good choices it caused 5 months of suffering.
I spent 6 weeks questioning God how could this happen, I threw in the towel I’d had enough of healthy eating it hadn’t got me anywhere! I screamed this is so unfair. However, this isn’t where God left me he taught me an important lesson of trust.
In the book of Romans Chapter 8 verse 28 God turns the concept of cause and effect on its head ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’.
The bible tells us that ‘all things’ will be used by God for his good purposes the lives of those who love God and belong to his family. God’s purposes are always good, his plans are for our benefit but not all things that happen will appear to be good in fact God uses painful circumstances for our benefit or for the benefit of others.
The source of evil is the devil and it is the devil alone that tempts us away from the goodness of God. It is the devil’s plan to stop everyone from joining God’s family. However, God’s plans are not thwarted by the devil’s determination to destroy all that God creates because God can use whatever the devil does for the good of God’s creation. The devil can do nothing to stop the goodness of God. God will protect and provide for his family.
The greatest place this truth was witnessed is the death of Christ himself.
God is good
God works things together for good because he is the source of goodness. He is good therefore all things that he does is for the purpose of goodness.
However, this isn’t the human condition, every day I do something right and I do something wrong there is never a day where I’m completely good or completely bad. We have an expectation of one another that we must always be good, we have an expectation that our standard is the standard everyone should follow, unfortunately each of us has a differing standard.
When I married my husband 26 years ago we had very different upbringings and we had hugely differing ideas of what was right and what was wrong. His standard was children always used a knife and fork under every circumstance. However, our daughter had problems with food and needed a gentler approach, she needed the grace to be able to explore foods using her hands as well as her mouth. On the other hand I demanded that our holiday routine must follow my standards which always resulted in a stressful and upsetting start to every holiday.
It even impacted on how we celebrated Christmas and numerous other areas of life which led to disagreements and falling out on many occasion.
When we turn to the bible and have a willingness to learn from it we find that God works beyond our human understanding of right and wrong. God works beyond our demands to pin him down to make one statement or another. God works beyond our demands that he sides with us and reject those who disagree with us. God works beyond our demands to work within the laws we create.
That’s because He is God and we’re not!
If we could make demands of God and make Him fit into our understanding then He wouldn’t be God.
It’s a mystery
God’s ways are not our ways. For some reason, we’re shocked by this, for some reason we are appalled that God is beyond our understanding. ‘If only we can understand all things then we would have no need of God’, this reasoning is evident throughout history.
Proverbs 3:5 tells us to ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’.
This is the key to unravel all the mysteries, to all the things we don’t understand. It doesn’t mean we will understand all there is to understand but we will have the realisation that all things don’t depend on us, all things don’t need our wisdom, all things don’t require our insight.
When we trust God and his understanding, when we realise that God is God and we’re not then we can rest in him. This is the place of liberty where we put our faith in Our Father God who provides, protects and has the power to transform us all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There are absolutes and they are all found in the very character of God;
Holy, Good, Just, Love, Perfect, Truth….
How God works these absolutes into his creation we can never fathom, all we need to do is be grateful and be willing to follow his plans and purposes for our lives, the very lives that he created, the very lives that he planned before our concept of time, the very lives that he works together for his good, the very lives that are intertwined way beyond our ability to understand.
The mystery of my illness has been revealed to me today. God used this time to not only teach me that I wasn’t completely trusting Him but I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t making time to ask Him what He wanted me to do, how He wanted me to live. That his purposes for my life are far more valuable than trying to lose weight or trying to be healthy. Even though these are good things to want for my life they are not his best for me, his best for me is to be close to him, listening and learning.
When I took the time to listen to my Father God he showed me that more important than wanting to lose weight there are heart attitudes that need changing. Today I learnt that I need his kindness to share with others, I need his kindness to mould my thinking and change my behaviour. This lesson was so more valuable than a thinner body and will last for all eternity. However, this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t live a healthier lifestyle, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t train for the half marathon it just means I have a lot to learn along the way. It does mean I need to listen to an Almighty God who knows me better than I know myself. And I am really looking forward to getting back into training for both the half marathon and for life.
Many people accuse the bible of contradicting itself and there seems many to find. Over the years I have grown to love finding the seemingly obvious contradictions of God saying two different things as being true, these are the places in the bible that I have learnt the most. Our human mindset says two differing ideas can’t work together, it always must be one or the other.
The one I love pointing people to is Matthew 6 in the Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches his disciples to pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ but in Chapter 7 we are told not to worry about what we should eat or wear.
Why does God on one hand tell us to pray for our needs but on the other not to worry about these things. It appears to be a contradiction.
In our absolute mindset, we demand these things cannot work together but beautifully and majestically God brings the request of the follower and the provision of the provider into the same place to work together for good.
My focus had been on being healthy for the half marathon so that I could run faster, I was focusing on the mechanics of this rather than trusting God to teach me about where my heart attitude was. Having a heart to learn has helped me understand that I have a fear of failure and that my concept of all or nothing is wrong because that doesn’t take into account real life and changing circumstances. The revelation of these two lessons has helped me change my focus from self and have a closer dependency on a God who loves me and wants the very best for me. I need to remember that;
In our search for rescue,
In our search for relief,
In our search for a Saviour,
We shouldn’t trust in our own understanding but have a willingness to open our minds and hearts to Our Heavenly Father and open His Word in anticipation of all that he wants to teach us, all that he wants to share with us.
Let us put our trust in an absolute God rather than an absolute mindset.