So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about — He is looking for us. ~ Simon Tugwell
Can it possibly get any more uncertain than this?
We so long for life to be better than it is. We wish the beauty and love and adventure would stay and that someone strong and kind would show us how to make the Arrows go away. We hope that God will be our hero. Of all the people in the universe, He could stop the Arrows and arrange for just a little more blessing in our lives. He can spin the earth, change the weather, topple governments, obliterate armies, and resurrect the dead. Is it too much to ask that He intervene in our story?
But He often seems aloof, almost indifferent to our plight, so entirely out of our control. Would it be any worse if there were no God? If He didn’t exist, at least we wouldn’t get our hopes up. We could settle once and for all that we really are alone in the universe and get on with surviving as best we may.
This is, in fact, how many professing Christians end up living: as practical agnostics. Perhaps God will come through, perhaps He won’t, so I’ll be hanged if I’ll live as though He had to come through. I’ll hedge my bets and if He does show up, so much the better. The simple word for this is godlessness. Like a lover who’s been wronged, we guard our heart against future disappointment.
In my sophomore year in high school I (John) fell in love with a beautiful junior named Joy. Our first dates were romantic, exciting, and full of adventure. I gave her my heart. One day several months into the relationship, I was trying in vain to thumb a ride home when I saw her car approaching. My heart leaped with anticipation, but Joy whizzed past in her convertible with another guy at the wheel. Adding insult to injury, she waved gaily as they rushed by. I felt the fool, which is what we often do when we feel betrayed. And I never gave her my heart again.
Everyone has been betrayed by someone, some more profoundly than others. Betrayal is a violation that strikes at the core of our being; to make ourselves vulnerable and entrust our wellbeing to another, only to be harmed by those on whom our hopes were set, is among the worst pain of human experience.
Sometimes the way God treats us feels like betrayal.
We find ourselves in a dangerous world, unable to arrange for the water our thirsty souls so desperately need. Our rope won’t take the bucket to the bottom of the well. We know God has the ability to draw water for us, but oftentimes He won’t. We feel wronged. After all, doesn’t Scripture say that if we have the power to do someone good, we should do it (Proverbs 3:27)? So why doesn’t God?
As I spoke with a friend about her painful life, how reckless and unpredictable God seems, she turned and with pleading eyes asked the question we are all asking somewhere deep within: “How can I trust a lover who is so wild?” Indeed, how do we not only trust Him, but love Him in return? There’s only one possible answer: You could love Him if you knew His heart was good.
In the movie The Last of the Mohicans, brave Nathaniel has captured the heart of the beautiful Cora. With tremendous courage and cunning, he rescues her from an ambush set by the black-hearted Magua, leader of a warring tribe. Nathaniel leads Cora, her sister, and a few other survivors to a hidden cave behind a waterfall. Just when it appears they will escape and live happily ever after, Magua and his savages discover their hideout. Once captured, the women may be spared but the men will surely be executed. With no powder for their rifles, Nathaniel’s only chance is to leap from the falls; by saving himself, he will live to rescue Cora another day. One of the other men calls him a coward, accusing him of foul and selfish motives. How is Cora feeling? What looks like abandonment may not be. Her only hope in the face of such wildness lies in the goodness of Nathaniel’s heart. At this point, it’s all she has to go on. It’s all we often have to go on too.
Does God have a good heart? In the last chapter Brent spoke of God as the Author of the story, which is how most people see Him if they see Him at all. And, as Hamlet said, there’s the rub. When we think of God as Author, the Grand Chess Player, the Mind Behind It All, we doubt His heart. As Melville said, “The reason the mass of men fear God and at bottom dislike Him is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain, like a watch.”
Do you relate to the author when reading a novel or watching a film? Caught up in the action, do you even think about the author? We identify with the characters in the story precisely because they are in the story. They face life as we do, on the ground, and their struggles win our sympathy because they are our struggles also. We love the hero because he is one of us, and yet somehow rises above the fray to be better and wiser and more loving as we hope one day we might prove to be.
The Author lies behind, beyond. His omniscience and omnipotence may be what create the drama, but they are also what separate us from Him. Power and knowledge don’t qualify for heart. Indeed, the worst sort of villain is the kind who executes his plans with cold and calculated precision. He is detached; he has no heart.
If we picture God as the mastermind behind the story — calling the shots while we, like Job, endure the calamities — we can’t help but feel at times what C. S. Lewis was bold enough to put words to: “We’re the rats in the cosmic laboratory.” Sure, He may have our good in mind, but that still makes Him the “vivisectionist” — the experimenter. We root for the hero and heroine, even come to love them, because they are living in the drama. They feel the heartache, they suffer loss and summon courage and shed their own blood in their struggles against evil.
What if? Just what if we saw God not as Author, the cosmic mastermind behind all human experience, but as the central character in the larger story? What could we learn about His heart?
Excerpted with permission from The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, copyright Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.
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Have you ever felt betrayed by God? Do you trust His heart with yours? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily