Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 38: Better than Nothing?

"Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do." -Ecclesiastes 9

Sounds good, right? But am I the only one who finds it tough to make an entire life out of eat, drink & be merry? Does anyone else ever get frustrated or disappointed or heartbroken? What do we do then?

This has been my dilemma for the past week as I write. I'm wrestling with a chapter about how I've dodged and avoided this question for the past three years as certain areas of my life didn't work out the way I'd hoped, and certain prayers remained unanswered. I've tried various approaches--believing without question the idea that "God is always good;" or trying to accept that even if He's something beyond just "good" (because that seems a little simplistic to me, like a bigger term is probably necessary) that He has some sort of plan going on that I'll be glad about someday, even if that someday isn't until after I die.

I've failed at these attempts. Miserably. And that has left me scrambling for a way to end this chapter with something other than the idea that maybe we can't count on God. That's not the book my publisher expects me to write...but more importantly, it's not what I believe. It's just what I'm experiencing right now, which is--let's be frank--a bummer.

I mentioned yesterday that I'm reading a book that's helping me wade through some of the messier aspects of real-life faith. It's called Is God to Blame? In it, theologian Greg Boyd suggests that there are two ways of looking at how God's will plays out on earth:

The first, the one he is writing to dispel, is called The Blueprint Model. According to The Blueprint Model, God chooses everything that does and does not happen here on earth according to his divine plan. So even when our lives take a sad or tragic turn, we're to take comfort in the notion that it's part of this big plan. Boyd is not a fan of this, arguing (and I won't go into all of it here, but will recommend that you read the book) that it's inconsistent with what God tells us about himself in the Bible, particularly in terms of what we see revealed in Jesus.

In place of The Blueprint Model, Boyd suggests The Warfare Model: the idea that in addition to God, there are human and evil factors that go into how life on earth plays out; that for every plan God has, Satan wants to thwart that plan and will do everything in his power to do so (including tempting us into making choices that lead us away from God).

So say, for example, you're praying for a husband. The Bible seems clear that this is God's will for most of us (see Genesis, or the the Apostle Paul's concession that every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband). Satan hates marriage, because it is, the Bible suggests, a foretaste of heaven. So he schemes. He brings men who are okay, but not great. He brings guys who seem great, but aren't into God. He points to the fact that we haven't had a date in 15 years and suggests, "You're so old now...God must want you to be single forever..." And in this, we make choices. Some of them (at least if you're me) bad choices, choices that take me away from my belief in God's best: to date the guy I'm not that into because he's better than nothing, or the guy who's not into God because, hey! maybe I'm the key to his spiritual development! Or to give up, lose hope, try to move on with my life and pretend I'm not angry, confused, and heartbroken.

We live in a spiritual battle zone, Boyd argues. And if we don't know and acknowledge this, it's awfully tough to fight. How do we fight?

We pray. We believe. We line our words up with what God says, instead of what we see. And we make smart, prayerful choices, even when they're hard.

That's our job, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. Today, do these three things, in whatever segment of time you can pull off. I'm told it has cumulative power :)

(And fasting counts, too! We'll be fasting through to the end of Friday, then breaking our fast on Saturday morning. Yay!)


Breeza said...

I can definitely understand both ways of looking at God's will. I like the second one better though. What you said about just settling or harboring anger really resonates with me. I'm not settling for some okay guy or non-Christian, but sometimes bitterness creeps in and it's hard not to feel forgotten. Exactly what Satan wants. But he's not going to get away with it. I know God has the right guy out there for me and I just have to be patient.

Stella said...

Unanswered prayer is a real TOUGHIE! Especially when it involves the most intimate, vulnerable, tender desires of our hearts.

IMHO, your post for today would make an excellent close to said chapter.

I intend to apply it.

Anonymous said...

I am feeling very discouraged today. My promise seems further away than closer as we close on these 40 days and to make matters worse I feel like I did an epic fail when it comes to my faith walk. I wanted it to get stronger on this 40 day journey yet I sit here doubting God and feel like I am disappointed Him. Sure I have had some strong faith days thought the process but James 1:8 says that a double minded man is unstable in all his where does that leave me? Any suggestions on how to get me out of this pit?

kim said...

lak0838 -- i'd say, just keep bringing it all back to God. he knows you are human. i always think of Jesus in the garden during times like this. let Jesus absorb it and ask for his mercy.

Anonymous said...

Kim thank you for the encouraging words! I will keep giving it to God.

Rachaelita said...

lako838: I just wanted to say that the times I've asked for more strength or faith, it seems like the challenges to my strength/faith start to increase. I forget that leaning in to Him during these "valleys of the shadow" is precisely what is going to make my faith stronger. It seems to me that if you have asked Him for this and you are going through a rough time, your answer might be closer than you realize.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly it. I am the one who asked God to increase my faith and the challenges increased as well. I shouldn't be so surprised. Ask and you shall receive. Probably have to say this ranks up as there as one of the toughest faith tests I have had in a long time. Makes sense to look for the answer is in the midst of the struggle. Like you and Kim both said and it is so true..I need to lean into God even more during the struggle. (and not give up).