Tuesday, April 18, 2017

God in the Trenches

Some people see God as someone who is off at a distance beholding our life. He sits up in His ivory tower and occasionally looks down over the balcony and shakes His head over the way we behave or clucks His tongue over the trouble we are in. He sends down instructions on how we should be living our lives if we would only listen. If He is sufficiently moved by the trouble we are in, He might send us some kind of help, but there is no guarantee. He deplores the fact of how we live and what it does to us. But He cannot possibly understand what we are going through, having never experienced it Himself. This is not the God of Christianity.   

Christianity says that God became a human being to pay the price for our sins (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). He knows what it is like to lose a father, to be rejected by His brothers, betrayed by a friend, despised by those in power, and condemned as a criminal. He knows poverty, temptation, sorrow, and pain. He experienced all the same kinds of things we experience except sin. And He did it to rescue us from the consequences of our wrongdoing (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). What does this mean? It means we have a God who understands our sufferings. Who has been there. Who knows what it’s like. We have a God who loved us enough to go through that for us. He is not someone standing at a distance shouting out instructions. He was willing to go down with us into the muck and the mire to pull us out. For the truth is, we need more than just a good example, we need more than an instruction book; we need to be rescued. We are helpless and cannot save ourselves (John 15:5; Romans 7:18; 8:8).

This does not answer the philosophical problem of evil, but it puts it in perspective. It does not explain God’s hiddenness at a particular time in our life, but it puts it in the context of the bigger picture. We may feel like Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers. Or we may feel like David, on the run from King Saul, though anointed king. We may not have all the answers as to what God is doing. But we know that He is in control of the world (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 43:13) and we need to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Isaiah 31:1). However, it does make a difference to know that God knows what it is like to go through such things, because He went through them Himself. We do not serve a God who sits in an ivory tower, but One who went down into the trenches for our sakes.

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