A God to Fear

Why are we so quick to stuff God into our little “god boxes”? Explain Him, minimize Him, dismiss Him… Too often we act like we have God all figured out. What if we are wrong? What if we are terrifyingly wrong?

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I’m sitting here feeling inadequate to even write this. But, I am SO passionate about Christians, believers in Jesus, really meeting God, really experiencing who He is, that I have to say something.

In youth group last Wednesday we watched a short video with Francis Chan. The topic was fearing God. I used to hate that phrase… Growing up in my Christian cult, we had a fear of God, but it wasn’t a healthy one. I felt afraid of god because if I didn’t perform correctly or follow the right steps, then god would punish me. The god I learned about seemed distant, angry, and scary.

In the video, Francis Chan was more concerned with the way the church has downplayed the idea of fear into mere reverence, respect, or awe. And it’s true. The church doesn’t talk much about a God who is frighteningly MORE than we can ever imagine.

I could be wrong, but it seems like Christianity often gets stuck in one of two extremes. Either zealous Christians get obsessed with Old Testament theology or progressive Christians want to dismiss the Old Testament as irrelevant and just talk about loving Jesus.

Truth out of balance or out of context is no longer truth. We can’t just pick and choose which part of the Bible we want to believe. We will never get a clear picture of who this God is who created and saved us if we don’t take the entire Bible into account, even the parts that make us uncomfortable.

We must believe in and accept the holy, all-powerful, and often frightening God revealed to us in the Old Testament if we are going to fully appreciate the wonder of Jesus, the God-man, in the New Testament.

Too often we treat God like we would the CEO of a company or the president of a country. They have a more powerful position than we do, and so we give them a little more respect. God has a little respect in our minds, but we aren’t scared of Him.

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The real God is not like us, you guys. We were just made a little bit like Him. Listen to this:

“With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?…Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:18, 21-26

The Bible gives us plenty of examples of people having visions of God and just falling on their faces in fear. What makes us think that we are any different?

Maybe I’m crazy, but I like this kind of God. I long for this kind of God. I want Him to be bigger and holier and more powerful and just MORE than I can ever imagine. I want to be terrified. I want to fall on my face before Him. I want to know that I am nothing and He is everything. I want this healthy fear to help control the way I live, and the way I read His word and pursue Him, and the way I share His message of hope with others. Not in a bad controlling way like I used to live in, but in a positive way.

If God is really real, like REAL, and really as great and awesome and…yeah, my words are failing me…then that changes everything. That changes how I live. Not because I’m afraid of what He’ll do to me, but because of WHO He is!

Because… This very real God isn’t just huge and scary; He is also SO good, and SO loving, and SO gracious, more than we can ever imagine. And He wants me. He wants you. He wants a relationship with us. As often as the Bible talks about fearing God, it also says “don’t be afraid”. It’s like we get to this point where we realize just who He is, and we are rightfully terrified, but then He just smiles and opens His arms. He is that big and scary (not in a mean way just in a powerful one), but we don’t have to be afraid, because God is for us. He is on our side.

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It is okay to believe in a God you don’t understand and can’t explain. We aren’t supposed to be able to… After all, we were made in God’s image; He wasn’t made in ours. Let that sink in.

So, what do we do? We let God out of our “god box”; He never fit in there anyway. We read the whole Bible and stop thinking we are smart enough to decide which parts are true or not. We realize that we are the creation and He is the Creator. We ask God to show us who He really is…so that we will fear Him. And we bask in the wonder that we can call this Amazing Being our Daddy and our Friend!!

At least that’s where we start… What do you think? Do you fear God? How does that phrase make you feel? What would a healthy fear of God look like in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

How Big is Your God?

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Redwoods at Muir Woods

A week ago I wrote a post called “I Will Not Fear” that quickly became the most popular thing I’ve ever written on this blog. Seeing that this topic struck a chord with people, I then confessed my own struggles with worry and panic attacks, and also shared the story of Trust, our tiny son that I miscarried at 17 weeks. This post contains some of my final (for now) thoughts on fear, worry, and choosing to trust God and not be afraid.

“To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be alike?” Isaiah 46:5

Too often, I unintentionally make God into my own image. I compare Him with things that I know, and see, and understand. I limit Him by squeezing Him into a box of my own invention. God becomes a slightly more impressive version of a human, maybe more like a superhero.

Many of us wouldn’t admit that this is how we view God, but our lives, our thoughts, our fears, all tell the truth.

I have come to believe that any idea or belief that makes God seem smaller or less powerful is wrong. It’s a pretty simple test of theology. 🙂

A limitless, all-powerful, all-knowing, crazily different Being created us, loved us, and chose to make us with the ability to know Him. After His creation, the first people, chose to disobey the one-and-only-command He gave them, The One Who Exists chose to pursue them anyway. Through the ages, He showed love and mercy, gave forgiveness and grace, and finally came as our Savior and Redeemer.

I feel like we get so used to this story, so used to church and religion, that we forget what it really means. If you are struggling to trust God, if you feel like He is in a box of your own design, and you want more, here are some suggestions.

  1. Turn off your phone and get out your Bible.
  2. Tell God you want Him to blow your mind and break out of your box.
  3. Sit quietly and think about Him, about who He is, the stories you have heard and read about Him. Ask Him to show you any lies you are believing about Him.
  4. Think about God becoming a human and choosing to be brutally murdered so that you could be His friend, His child. Why would He do that?
  5. Read Genesis 1, Isaiah 45-46, or John 1, or all of them. Ask God to speak to you.

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

We were made to know God, the real, infinitely giant, crazily amazing, Being, who calls Himself I AM. We were created to know Him. Jesus came as the exact image of God (Colossians 1:15), and died so that we could be His friends (John 15:13-15). It doesn’t really make sense! But that’s okay. It’s part of the Backwards, Inside-out Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I love it!

When you know Him, you will realize you can trust Him. And as you chose to trust Him, you will find out just how BIG He really is!

 

When There’s Nothing Left – Choosing Trust

choose to believeLooking at the ultrasound monitor, I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I knew as soon as I saw him. My baby was dead.

We sat in a small, separate waiting room with dim lighting and multiple Kleenex boxes waiting for the doctor. Four weeks ago our baby was wiggling all over that monitor, waving to us, measuring just right, looking good. And now he was dead. Why would God do this to us again?

Seven months ago, we had lost our first baby at 18 weeks. I thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through. By the time I started miscarrying, he was already absorbing into my uterus, so I had to have a D&C. We had asked so many questions, felt so much grief, and yet God had carried us. We learned and grew closer to God and to each other.

We’d been way more careful this time, many more ultrasounds, and things had been looking good. It seemed like God was answering our prayers. But now my heart was breaking all over again. Why? Why would God let this happen?

The doctor came. He told me our baby was bigger this time. He told me it would be better if I delivered him. He wanted to know if tomorrow would work. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day will never be the same for me, but I’m okay with that. I spent February 14, 2009 in the hospital laboring with my tiny baby. It was a bit surreal. To be on the maternity floor. To hear babies crying. It lasted all day until finally, at 9:34pm, we got to see our teeny, little, baby boy. He was about 15 weeks along, even though I was at 17 weeks, with tiny fingers and toes, and little ribs. You could even see his fingernails starting to form. The nurses let us spend as much time as we wanted with him. It’s hard to explain the pain I felt, kind of like my chest was ripping in two. I wanted that baby! I wanted him so much! But I wanted him to be alive. And he wasn’t.

I remember them asking if we had a name for him. I didn’t had any names for dead babies, only for living ones! We didn’t know what to do. My husband and I talked about it. We were struggling to trust God and believe in His goodness. It felt impossible to hold on. So, we chose to take a step of faith, and we named our son, Trust. Not because we felt it, because we didn’t. But, we chose to trust in a God that we could not see and did not understand. Instantly, I felt peace flood my heart.

I know what it means in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Because the peace I felt didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t like anything had changed in my circumstances…but I had absolute peace.

“…I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD who does all these things” Isaiah 45:6b-7.

I found this verse before my babies died, but afterwards it became my life verse. I had heard well-meaning people tell others who were grieving that God was sorry their pain happened. I didn’t want God to be sorry, because I didn’t want Him to be weak. I didn’t want Him to be like, “Oops, sorry about that!” I wanted a God who was totally in control. It comforted me to read this verse and hear God tell me, “Christy, I took your babies. I did it on purpose. It was not an accident.”

Because a God who is completely in control and loves me, is safe even if I don’t understand Him. I love believing in a Being who is good and loving, but so far above me that He doesn’t owe me an explanation for His actions. It brings me peace.

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Jesus carried me after my babies died. He held me five weeks later when I shared my testimony of loss and trust with a group of juvenile delinquents on a Reservation in South Dakota. He held me up so that I could still reach out to the junior high kids in our youth group. Jesus carried me through my friend’s pregnancies, and baby showers, and seeing young teen mom’s at Walmart. Oh, I cried, often! But they were not tears of hopelessness and despair, just of sorrow and somehow trust. I was a blubbering mess just writing this! Choosing to trust does not mean that we don’t feel pain.

One year after we lost Trust, despite thinking we might never have children, God miraculously provided a diagnoses, a fertility specialist who just happened to be one of the best in the nation, $8000, a surgery, and a brand new baby growing in my tummy.

Our daughter Zoe’s birthday and Trust’s due date are just two days and one year apart.

Sometimes God gives us the desires of our hearts even when it seems impossible, and other times He doesn’t. I have a close friend who struggles with infertility, she has even been through IVF and God has chosen not to give her a baby. Why? Often we will never know that answer, but we can believe that God never loses control and we can choose to trust.

“…I the LORD, do all these things” Isaiah 45:7.

How does that make you feel?

It gives me confidence knowing that nothing can come to me that hasn’t passed through the hand of my Heavenly Father. His plans and thoughts are so much larger than mine.

I can trust Him.