Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reality shows

Sunday I was walking out of church and passed a friend of mine. I smiled at her, but she didn't acknowledge me. So I reached out and patted her arm, and said, "Hey, Jen!" She glanced my way, gave me a very quick half smile, and hurried away.

I froze. My mind went off in all directions. Did she just snub me? A question which is always followed by this one: Is she mad at me? My stomach sank. Oh no, what did I do? I tried to imagine any wrong I might have committed against her, and came up blank. I thought we were friends. Does she not like me anymore? Unlikely, she liked me fine last week. Is she just rude?

All these questions and emotions filtered through my brain in approximately 1.5 seconds as my inner seventh grader reared her insecure little head.

Then I stopped the wild thoughts and remembered: I know her. She is not rude or vindictive. Neither is she passive-aggressive. Even if she were upset with me, she would not handle it that manner, she is too spiritually mature for that. She is a sweet, friendly, godly woman, a servant to the church - and therefore a servant to me.

If it seemed like she was angry at me, or didn't like me, or was just an utter jerk, then my perception was skewed. Because based on what I know to be true about her character, that's just not who she is. Sure enough, I saw her later, and she acted completely normal.

I'd completely misread the situation.

Some of us are going through some serious stuff in our lives right now. Cancer. Infertility. Troubled marriages. Children with diseases so complicated that doctors can't even give a proper diagnoses. Many, many of our friends have lost their jobs - I received an email today about another dear friend whose husband was laid off.

When the bad news comes, when the stress is so overwhelming that we can't take a deep breath, when the pain cuts so deep that our souls ache and the situation seems so hopeless, those same insecurities that I had regarding Jen appear regarding our heavenly Father. We look up at the sky with confused, stunned looks on our faces, and ask, Why is God treating me like this?

Has he forgotten me? Is He mad at me?
What did I do? A good God couldn't allow something so bad to happen! I thought God was my friend! Friends don't treat each other this way!

And during those times it is so important to remember just Who we're talking about here.

All the signs pointed to my friend acting unkindly to me. But I was dead wrong. Because she's just not like that.

When all the signs point to God acting unkindly towards me, then I have to remind myself that no matter what, I am dead wrong.

Because God is just not like that.

As surely as in the midst of my confusion I had to remind myself of who just Jen is, we have to remind ourselves of just who God is. And we have to go back to the place where he reveals himself to us - in his Word and in his Son. Because as far as our perceptions are concerned? Our assumptions? Our idea of the truth? The way that we feel deep in our hearts that God is? Scripture answers:

The heart is more deceitful than anything else
and desperately sick—who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Desperately sick. Clueless. Prone to misinterpretation and mistake. In fact, the verse says, frequently flat out incapable of discerning the truth.

Many times, perception=deception. Seeing is deceiving.

We must learn to disregard our feelings and consult the Truth. When the road is dark, it is the only instrument that will enlighten our path.

We cry out, Has God forgotten me?

And God cries back:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

Isaiah 49:15

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:20b

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9-10

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

We cry out, Is He mad at me? What did I do?

And God cries back:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Romans 8:1

"Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,"
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

We cry out, A good God wouldn't allow something so bad to happen!

And God cries back:

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Deut. 32:4

You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:3b-4

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

We cry out, I thought God was my friend! Friends don't treat each other this way!

And God cries back:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 55:22

We have a choice to make.
Will we trust our heart, our clueless, deceitful, windblown, desperately sick heart?

Or will we trust that God is who He says He is, the lover of our aching soul? The One whose love endures forever, no matter what evil the enemy, the ruler of this crazy world, may send our way?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1


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