When God Isn’t

God.

How do you cope, what do you say when God isn’t?

Isn’t what?
Yes, that’s the question, what then when God isn’t God?

I am getting ready to celebrate the two year anniversary of my 49th birthday.
If you can’t figure that out, it means I’m almost 51.

I don’t feel old, act old, or look old. In fact, I am one good looking man. Right Becki? Becki?

Smiling with you before we go a bit deeper.

The point isn’t my age or what I look like…
The point is the culture in which I live.

I am a Burger King guy in a Burger King world. Not so much the actual burgers themselves, but I have grown up and matured in a culture that has told me I could have it my own way. Every time. All the time.

Like most people in the American context, we want what we want and we demand it our way… or else.

And in our thinking, that’s the way it works in a God context as well. Man is made in the image of God–and we turn around and make God in ours.

In my mind, God is like my Father. He is my protector, fixer, helper, and validater (ok, validater is not a word, but I needed the tense and couldn’t say validates). I have meaning because God says it and proves it doing the things a father does.

Until He doesn’t.
What then?

My expectations of God are not that difficult. Not for an all powerful, ever present God. Especially considering we had a deal.

I serve Him. He protects me and mine.

Until He didn’t.
What now?

I never knew until I did how many other people have such questions. Such pain. Such anger. Such doubt about how He choses to work or not in our lives.

Since I started writing Desperately Wanting To Believe Again, my email is dinged daily from people who struggle just like I do.

People who are bitterly disappointed in God. People who cannot understand how a loving Father God sits idly by and does nothing. People who are on the ragged edge of ever believing and trusting in Him again.

If it were you, could you really blame us? If you had to walk in our shoes, would your faith take a hit?

Please, please quit telling us how God has a plan. Really? God’s plan was a brutal double homicide? Or cancer? Or suicide?

This isn’t really about how disappointed we are in God. I am. We are. And He knows it.
He would have to be deaf and blind or zoned out to not know.

But that’s not the only way we have made God in our image. We have this expectation of answers here. Answers now. Answers that make sense and give us hope.

Sadly, those answers are not always forthcoming–and we are not completely capable of understanding.

It is hard when God isn’t God. At least the God we have come to demand and expect.

So what then when God isn’t?

That’s the conundrum of faith.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

Faith is a journey some of us limp on…

Where are your faith struggles?

Les, Jr.

15 thoughts on “When God Isn’t

  1. You hit the nail on the head. Literally all of the thoughts I’ve had for the last while.

    On the one hand, at least I know I’m not alone feeling this way. On the other hand, what do we do about it?

  2. There are many issues that I can really get to thinking about and be very upset. At some point, our only choice is to accept these things as God’s will. Anything other than that will have us continually re-living the past and I believe Satan uses that to prevent us from being useful and effective individuals. I have been struggling with the death of my Mother…One of the biggest losses I have ever had to bear. It has been over four years and I still find it hard to understand and accept. I am praying that one day I will be in a better place mentally with it. I think that reading your articles has been helpful because it lets me know that others are struggling too. I feel like it is taboo to talk about my feelings of loss with my friends and family….From my perspective, they have moved on and really don’t want to keep wallowing in the mud of it. I, on the other hand, am still struggling. I am sorry for your loss.

  3. This entry reminded me of a scene in a movie that I saw a long time ago. There was a priest that was ministering to men in prison. The priest was talking to a man who was so hardened against God because of the tragedies and bad choices of his life. In the conversation the priest learns that the man had a son that was murdered. As the priest began to speak words of comfort, the large, burly inmate grabbed the priest by his shirt and pulled him up close, nose to nose and said, “Where was God when my son was murdered?” And the answer came from the priest who showed no panic at all, and with love in his voice he said, “The same place He was when His son was murdered.” ~I have thought alot about that since then…..

  4. whoa, mind blown. I had one of those lightbulb moments. with “But that’s not the only way we have made God in our image. We have this expectation of answers here. Answers now. Answers that make sense and give us hope.” Thank you for putting my jumbled thoughts I could never really put into words- into words. 🙂

  5. Spot on Les! When we let God be God and not the Good of our image – He is there!

    We have a whole world of man-made religions we have created because of our desire to bring God down to our level and not us rise to His level. This includes the restoration movement we are a part of.

    Grace and Peace Brother

  6. What a struggle, what a mystery. You will probably be asking yourself those questions until you can have the peace of asking Him face to face. Yet then, you will be with Karen and Cole and God and your questions probably won’t matter anymore. Have patience, my brother. I am praying for you and your family. Mr. Ferguson, please read Isaiah Chapter 55. May God bless you and all your endeavors. Peace.

  7. Excellent points, Les, and I think more people struggle with these than would admit. Reconciling the ‘feel-good’ message from so many pulpits with the hard realities of life is difficult for even the most faithful. People need desperately to hear about the doubt, pain, and willingness to keep seeking God that you describe so well in these pages.

  8. I understand where you are coming from Les. My first wife died at 43. My kids were jacked up with drugs and teen pregnancies after she died. I have physical pain every day that is getting worse. My wife has a horrible neurological disease and has been in a motorized wheelchair for 5+ years. So it is not that I do not understand where you are coming from.

    In my view, God is very much God but not in the narcissistic way that many of us have imagined him. For some strange reason we either blame him directly or indirectly when things are tough for us. Somehow this whole “personal relationship” paradigm gets really weird when things go bad. In my view it is simply bad theology.

    Many embrace a theology that sees God as a sovereign micromanager who observes and controls the actions of human beings. In response to this perception believers often give Him thanks for blessings and non-believers (and some believers) credit him with things that hurt people. I guess I do not see things that way.

    My view is that God has a different style of management and sovereignty. When I think about the word sovereignty I see a pyramid where God has delegated sovereignty to nations, to communities, to families and finally to the individual. Both groups of peoples and people themselves exercise an incredible amount of sovereignty in the world. Small wonder, with this amount of sovereignty (even at a micro level) that the world is not worse than it is. Perhaps that speaks to the overarching (macro) level of sovereignty that God exerts as He brings beauty from ashes and works all things together for our good?

    Hope this does not upset anyone – being angry with God can be comforting in a warped way. It has taken me years to shed a narcissistic theological view of God and come to a place where I no longer see God as my problem.

    All that said, I am willing to say that perhaps this might be something that has helped me deal with the death of my dreams, the pain of much loss and embrace hope once again.

    Blessings, Bob

  9. When I was struggling with infertility and told, “God has a plan,” it didn’t help me one bit.

    When I finally DID have a child, and that child was diagnosed with autism, a well-meaning friend told me that he could “be a blessing”.

    Now, while it is true that a child with special needs can be, and often is, a blessing (as I’m sure you discovered with Cole), right after the diagnosis–when the parents are in the shock and grief stage–is not the time to say it.

    My son has come a very long way. Today I had an IEP meeting with his current teacher, and with the person that will probably be his teacher next school year. She talked a lot about life skills and things that the kids did, all good things, all helpful things, all things that my son will need to learn . . . and while I’m glad there’s a place for my son, I wonder sometimes, “But isn’t there more for him than just setting tables or sorting recyclables or bagging groceries?” (And there is always the question, “What will happen to him when I’m gone?”)

    I shared on a social website some of my fears about my son as he got older, and one response I got was, “You all planning on dying soon?”

    My answer: There were two members of our congregation that died (in 2009) when a tire blew on their van. No warning, no nothing. Just “pow!” and then the van flipped over. A 15-year-old boy died instantly. The mother died three days later. You *never know* when something is going to happen.

    I’m very concerned and angry about several things happening on the political/cultural scene. While I know we win in the end, all the statements about God having a plan, and how we just need to “let go and let God” and “trust that God will work it all out” don’t help me when I am faced with having to deal with the consequences of other people’s decisions. And do NOT, if you value your life, tell me that “God is in control.” I expressed my fear about the 2008 Presidential election to a group of people and was immediately greeted with a chorus of “God is in control.” My first thought was, “Of COURSE you can say, ‘God is in control.’ Your candidate is going to win!” Ever since then, I have really resented that phrase, because too often it is used as a spiritual brush off. (My apologies to any of you who did support the winning candidate. I’m sure I would feel differently had my candidate won.)

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