God in a Box

The God revealed in the Bible is the same God who is active in this world, in this time, today. Why do I have so much trouble believing that? I pray in a tentative fashion, and am constantly surprised when I receive an answer at all, much less a rapid and obvious one. I am learning that my faith is shallow, my trust in Him has a long way to go before it reaches the level He wants.

I’ve been in a season of exposition lately. Exposing false suppositions and erroneous conclusions so they can be replaced by the truth. I think subconsciously I had assumed that God had finished His exposition during the last year that I have walked with Him because there was so much deception uncovered and truth instilled in that one short time period, but there again I have been wrong. When new truth is brought to light I find myself thinking “duh” because it’s just so obvious now. I love how He works, and I love that He works. Everything I have experienced over the last year has just underlined and highlighted that the Word of God is true.

This thought makes me realize, yet again, that the truth has always been out there, but we humans (myself especially) have a great capacity for deception and a great gullibility wherein we swallow lies hook, line, and sinker without hesitation. It’s sad and disheartening to realize that. It’s sad to realize just how many lies I believed, and still believe. I pray He continues exposing these lies and replacing them with His truth.

I have read in the Bible story after story, episode after episode where God answers prayers. Where His people pray, and He acts, He moves. Not always in ways they expect, but He always moves. I’ve written before that I have had trouble with the passage in 1 John that talks about the confidence we have in Him that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and that we have the requests we have asked of Him. Obviously the stipulation to that promise is asking “according to His will,” but I think in a hidden murky part of myself I was operating out of the belief that He would only answer if He felt like it, or if I asked just the right way, or with just the right words. Held my mouth right, stood on my head…something. I know the truth – that He is eager to hear and answer my prayers – but I don’t live out of the truth. That realization dawned on me recently.

I have had several instances where I have lifted up specific requests. I mean, minutely specific. Detailed. And, to be honest, it was more along the lines of sharing with a friend what I wished would happen, or what I hoped would happen, or what I felt like needed to happen. In each case, the request centered around someone else coming closer to Jesus. There was more to it than just that, I was wanting a specific behavior to change (one that was dangerous for spiritual growth, not just something I didn’t like), but that was at the bottom line. See, I know that that motive, that underlying drive, is within His will. I know that He desires all of His children to come closer, to be focused on Him. I know that when I, myself, live that out, my entire outlook changes. My thoughts and words and behaviors change. So that’s what I was requesting in these specific circumstances.

And it happened. In one case it was answered within the space of a couple of hours. I was shocked, to be quite honest. I prayed for supernatural intervention, and He intervened supernaturally. I have prayed for God to work in someone’s heart in a specific way, and He has done it. Every time I have prayed that, He has done it. And it surprises me every time. When I think about that, as I am now while writing this, it overwhelms me. It awes and amazes me. That He would work and move and answer my specific prayers blows my mind.

I finished a book recently that opened my eyes again to this concept of God being the same yesterday, today, and forever. That the God of the Bible is the same God on this day of this month of this year of this century as He was on the Day of Pentecost. He is no different on October the 20th of 2021 than He was as He was leading the Israelites out of Egypt. No different than He was on Day One of Creation when He spoke light into existence.

I have had this realization before through this last year of my journey. I have had it several times as a matter of fact. But God seems to plant seeds in my heart and leave them alone for a time, come back and water them, then walk away, then come back yet again when it’s time for the seed to become a plant. For whatever reason, now is apparently the time for that seed to sprout. This concept has taken over my thought processes, like a billow of smoke from a fire…spreading in, over, under, and through everything else.

There’s a lot that has gone into this final push towards growth, and a lot that it impacts. It touches everything, as a matter of fact. Every concept, idea, fledgling thought. Every word, every deed. The entirety of my future. It’s huge. Groundbreaking. Earthshattering. When I apply this truth to any given area of my life, it changes everything. God is real. He is powerful. He is magnificent. And He has chosen me to be His own. Mercy what a thought!

As I look at this illuminated truth, I have to look back at the lies I have believed as well. I think most believers are in the same place. Especially believers in the United States and other well-developed nations. We have minimized God. We have put Him in a box, given Him boundaries and borders, and instructed Him not to move beyond what we are comfortable accepting. Because what it takes to meet the God of the Bible is to surrender totally to Him. And we don’t like to do that. It’s not comfortable or relaxing, and it doesn’t allow any room for us to maneuver or control things. God is ever a gentleman and does not push in where He has not been invited. So, though it hurts His heart, He lets us go on about our lives ignoring Him or popping in for a quick visit on Sunday morning, just to say “hey” and wave a little, before getting back to what’s really important.

But just like we humans who reserve our true selves for those who really want to know us, He’s not going to show out to those who aren’t interested. But when someone turns to Him, turns fully into His face, lays their life down at His feet and offers it back to Him to use as He sees fit, boy does He move! There’s no “take-backsies” either. I’ve invited Him in, and He’s not leaving now. (He reminds me of this whenever I do try to take pieces back or close doors in His face.)

What would it look like if every believer in this country actually believed God to be Who He says He is, believed He could and would act in the same ways He acted centuries ago but in this day and age? What would it look like if every believer in this country truly understood and experienced the awe and wonder of the redemption of Christ? What would it look like if every believer mined the Word of God for His truth and actually believed it, stood on it, acted on it? What would it look like if I did all that?

I have been guilty of reading scripture and not truly grasping that the words on the page are from the lips of God. There is a scripture that says it is impossible for God to lie. Then there are other scriptures that say He has chosen me, He has adopted me. If the one is true, the others are true. There are scriptures that say we are pressed but not crushed, we are persecuted but not destroyed. What if I believed that was actually true? What if I looked at a particular circumstance in my life and understood and accepted that while it was pressing me down, compressing and compacting me, it was not going to crush me. What if I looked at my Savior and just concentrated on Him instead of what’s going on around me, fully trusting that I’m safe?

I have also been guilty of limiting my understanding to what is seen, heard, touched, felt, and tasted in this life I’m living at the moment. Things that can be experienced with the five senses the Father gave me become all that is true. If I can’t see it, it isn’t true. If I can’t touch it, taste it, feel it, it isn’t real. I can say all that and know that that line of thought is the opposite of what is in the Word. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I think of things that have substance. My keyboard, for example. I feel it with my fingers as I’m depressing the individual keys, and I see the results of those actions on the screen. It is tangible, it is concrete and fixed. I can touch it and see it and see its results. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Without faith it is impossible to please God.

But with faith…we can move mountains. With faith, we can speak to a Holy God, the One who has power and might and majesty, and know that He hears us, that He cares about what matters to us. We can begin the process of trusting Him, of knowing that He has come through in the past, and He will do so again.

I get cautious when I think or speak about trusting God for certain things. Not because He’s not trustworthy, and not solely because I recognize that there are limits to my trust, limits that He is pushing. I get cautious because there is so much teaching out there that can be labeled prosperity gospel, and it is such a trap. I heard of a situation a woman is facing where she may be forced to endure the devastating loss of her children due to poor decisions she has made in her past. Oh my heart goes out to her. But I cannot assure her that if she prays, God won’t let that happen. I don’t know the mind of God. I don’t know His plan, and I don’t know what part this circumstance plays in His plan. I can’t counsel her that God isn’t going to let her lose her children, that if she follows the steps, completes all the requirements, files her paperwork correctly, etc., etc., it won’t happen. I can’t promise that. It would be devastating if the unthinkable did happen, and she blamed God for letting her down. Because God may have something He wants to teach her, something He wants to show her through the unthinkable.

I know of someone else who made poor decisions in her youth and as a result lives with a constant fear of losing loved ones to death as a punishment for her sins. I can’t assure her that will never happen. I’m not in charge of that. I can only encourage her to pour out her fears before Him and allow Him to touch them. I can tell her that God is not a punitive God, that He does not desire to punish. I can tell her that no one loves her loved ones more than God Himself does. I can tell her that no one loves her more than God Himself does, and He does not want her to hurt. But He does want her holy. And her holiness, her purity, the emergence of what He put within her, may only come about through the death of a loved one.

I, myself, trusted God years ago for my marriage. After my affair came out and during the recovery there was nothing but fighting and blame and tears. I felt positive that God had assured me that we would make it through. The word “divorce” was hurled and thrown like a javelin often during the early months, and I resisted, rebuked, and returned it with the absolute assurance that it wasn’t supposed to happen. During a heated argument one evening divorce was again brought up, or at least separation, and my instinctive, knee-jerk reaction was “no!” But a still, small voice whispered in my heart “Do you trust Me?” I cautiously answered yes. The response was “Let him go.” I took that to mean I was supposed to allow the separation, if that was what he wanted, so I did. I was greatly encouraged, and felt that God was moving and working in our marriage, when we reconciled three months later.

I hurled that back at God after my return to Him. Why did this happen? Why was I sitting there alone in my house while my ex-husband was making promises to another woman? I have looked over the events, the choices made, the paths taken by both of us in the years between that reconciliation and our eventual divorce, and I know that this outcome was inevitable. God is not to blame for it. We are. And what I have learned, how He has changed me, what He has done in my heart and my life since the divorce is beyond words. He allowed everything I counted on, everything I used to identify myself, to slip away from me, so that I could find Him and find my identity in Him. My Appointment Day could not have happened without that divorce. And that one day is the pivot point of my life.

We don’t know the fullness of His plan for this world, for our community, for our church, for our homes, for our lives. He does not guarantee us easy lives filled with prosperity and fun. As a matter of fact, He guarantees us the opposite. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world,” Jesus says. There is going to be loss, there is going to be unfairness, there is going to be persecution, there is going to be heartbreak and pain. But there is Jesus. There is the truth of His word. There is the hope that we have. There is the joy that is ahead of us.

The book I just finished dealt largely with those who have been persecuted for their faith in Christ. The writer completed hundreds of interview with individuals who were imprisoned, beaten, starved, tortured, their families threatened and some murdered, all because they would not recant their faith. I read this book from the comfort of my home solidly in the Bible belt, in between my personal Bible study, in between the glorious opportunities I have for interacting with others who are believers, in between my church services where I am encouraged and challenged and blessed to worship. I read of those who had no homes. Who had lost loved ones. Who had come close to losing their own lives. I read of those who did lose their lives. I read of the house churches in China and the exponential growth that country has seen during its Communist rule. I read of the joy of these believers, the hope that drove them. I read of their excitement when they were gifted with a section (a section!) of scripture to read and study. I read this as I had no fewer than four Bibles in my office, a Bible app on both my phone and my tablet, and unlimited access to commentaries, different Bible translations, expositions, studies, whatever my heart desires to dive into through the wonder of the internet.

We are blessed in our country to not live under the persecution that these believers endure on a daily basis. Yet we are further from our Creator than ever, and have boxed Him up and limited Him to our Sunday morning services. They believe Him for everything. They endure for the hope that is before them. They know that this world is not all there is. And we sit comfortably secure in our homes and wonder what we’re going to wear to church Sunday, all the while keeping our God in a box.

I wondered why the church in this country is faltering, failing. I long to see the faith, the purity, the drive, the hunger and thirst for righteousness within my community, my state, and my country. But it begins with me. It begins when I understand that He is real. He is God. He is all. It begins when the scales are lifted off my eyes and I begin to see Him. It begins when I read His word and know it is true. When I apply that truth to my life, my choices, my thought processes. It begins when I believe He answers prayers. It begins when I act on the fact that He is trustworthy. It begins when I trust Him with my life. When I let go. When I let Him out of the box.

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