Month: October 2014

Is God a Jerk?

Hold on… put away the pitchforks and torches.  Let me explain.  There are times when you read the words of God and you might think that God kind of sounds like a jerk. For example…

How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?‘” Isaiah 45:10 NLT

Have you ever asked God “Why did you make me this way?” I think it is a question that many of us have asked.  It is the kind of question that you ask when you are hurting isn’t it?  I mean no super model ever said to God

I know that I’m one of the most beautiful people in the world and I make millions just by having my photograph taken… Why did you make me this way?

No, this is the kind of question that we ask when we are unhappy with our body or our mind.  It is the question of people suffering from deep depression or terrible disease, but it is also the kind of question that every awkward teenager asks. It is the question we ask when we fell like God has given us a raw deal.  If someone who is really hurting were to speak to you this way you would expect a tender answer… a merciful answer.. but instead this is what you get.

This is what the LORD says–the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for My children? Do you give Me orders about the work of My hands?
Isaiah 45:11 NLT

Huh? God’s response is basically “Shut up, you don’t tell me what to do… I’m God.” Wow… he kind of sounds like a grumpy old man or a kind of a jerk.

Think About It

Whenever I read a bible passage like this I step back and try to think more deeply about what is being said. I do this by looking closely at the context of the passage and then I try to picture the scene as if I were watching a movie. I try to feel what the people there were feeling and hear the words as they must have heard them.

For example, just imagine Moses high up on a mountain where God is giving him the Ten Commandments. God was very close to Moses speaking to him face to face (Exodus 33:11). When out of the blue, Moses asks God a bold question “Show me your glory” (v18).  In response, God says he will cover Moses with his hand so that he won’t die and make all of his goodness pass before him.

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
Exodus 34:6 NLT

As God revealed himself to Moses look at how he described himself

  • a God of compassion and mercy
  • Slow to anger
  • Filled with unfailing love and faithfulness

He is not like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain, a little, angry man so let’s move beyond that image and ask a better question.  Instead of “God are you a jerk?” try asking “God what are you telling me?”

Woe to the one who argues with his Maker— one clay pot among many. Does clay say to the one forming it, ‘What are you making?’ Or does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?
Isaiah 45:9 HCSB

woe‌ (wō)
‌Deep distress or misery, as from grief; wretchedness.

God says it is not a good idea to argue with him.

Is this because he is a jerk who doesn’t want to hear our complaints? On the contrary, God encourages us to bring our pain to him.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalms 55:22 HCSB

Why do you suppose God says that arguing with God will bring woe? Is it because God will squash us like a bug for our complaining? Perhaps, but I think the reason is that it puts you in a very bad place emotionally and spiritually.

If you make a habit of arguing with God you have forgotten your place.  God uses some word pictures to describe your place.

  • He is the potter, you are the clay
  • He is the parent, you are the child

In other words, He is God, you are not.

He Has The Right

In Romans 9, Paul was responding to a complaint that he had probably heard as he taught this new gospel to Jews.

Are we saying that God is unfair?
Rom 9:14a

People were asking this question because Paul seems to be arguing that God’s choice is the decisive one. If you are chosen, or elect, you will be saved. If you aren’t you won’t be. If that sounds like a statement you might disagree with that is because Christians are still arguing to this day as to what Paul actually meant.  I’ll save that argument for another time, but I want to focus on one thing Paul said.

No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the One who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t He have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
Romans 9:20-21 NLT

Whatever it is that God has done (or allowed) in your life or your body that makes you lash out saying “Why have you made me this way?” Remember this… God has the right to do it.

He is the potter, you are the clay.  Accept it.  Not because he is a jerk who will squash you like a bug but because your question “Why” is not really a question, it is an accusation wrapped inside a question and asking it will only hurt you.

God’s Critic

When we ask God “Why have you made me like this?” we are making a subtle accusation.

God – I know your word says that you are compassionate, merciful and loving toward all you have made but when I look at my body and what is happening to me I think that maybe all of that isn’t true. I think that you really are not good.

Don’t be shocked… I think many of us have felt this or even said it out loud. Listen to what Job said.

But it is God who has wronged me, capturing me in His net. “I cry out, ‘Help!’ but no one answers me. I protest, but there is no justice.
Job 19:6-7 NLT

Often people will say, “Well God, didn’t harm Job… Satan did.”  Well, I have to say that while that is true, it doesn’t absolve God. Job didn’t say “Satan has wronged me” because he understood that God was sovereign. Satan can only do what God has allowed him to do.

God finally shows up at the end of the book and has a talk with Job and I find myself hoping that God will explain everything, but instead he says this.

Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: “Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
Job 38:1-3 NLT

He then follows with a long series of questions designed to point out how little Job knows about the universe.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you know so much.
Job 38:4 NLT

This goes on and on with questions about creation and how the universe works and then finally God asks Job another question.

Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing–how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
Job 40:1-5 NLT

At this point, if I were sitting near Job I might slowly start moving away as I expect lightning to strike or the ground to open up and swallow Job whole but the Job says

“I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
Job 42:6 NLT

Job finally reached the place where he realized that by becoming God’s critic he had cut himself of from the only one who can help him in life or death. When you accuse God of not being loving or kind the big problem isn’t that God’s feelings are hurt and he respond like a sullen child. No, the problem is that you put distance between yourself and God. If you embrace your anger and coddle it, like a cancer it will grow only increasing the distance between yourself and the greatest love in the universe.  There is only one solution, you must repent.

Repentance is not merely a chance of actions, like “OK, I’ll stop drinking if it will make you happy.” It is that but also a change of heart.

God, I was angry and became critical of you, even to the point where I began to believe that you are a liar.  I’m sorry. I don’t know why you made me this way, but I do know that you love me and that you will never abandon me and when I do die, you will be there with me even then.

The temptation is to try to make sense of your situation by making excuses for God.

  • God didn’t make me sick, Satan did.
  • God had nothing to do with my illness. Our broken toxic planet is the real problem.

Those things may or may not be true, but you will never know the answer to “Why” and every step you take down this road is a step towards becoming angry and critical with God. Why? Because your answers will never make sense. You will just have to accept the fact that while here on earth you will never get an answer to “Why” and that even in not knowing God is still good.

My “Episodes”

In the past, I’ve shared with people (see Thankfulness and my Catatonic Life) what I experience when I slip into a catatonic state.  These episodes started out small but have become much more frequent and long lasting.  In the past few weeks I have had episodes of a few minutes to as much as 4 hours.  During these episodes I am not asleep or unconscious.  I have little or no control over my body and I can hear what people are saying but I am unable to respond to them.  It feels like I am in a strange twilight zone, a dreamlike state.

I hesitate to post this video because it is painful to watch but this is the reality of my life today.

Status Update

I’ve been away from social media for a few months now.  I found myself increasingly not wanting to post or say anything about my condition because it’s so depressing.  I hate to bring depressing news to people but this is my world.  Several people have been asking so here it is… (last chance to turn away if reading this will cause you too much distress)

The Bad News

In the past few months my disease (Adiposis Dolorosa) has taken a turn for the worse.  Much, much worse. I’ve become more and more disabled and my pain has dramatically increased. Recently I had another fruitless trip to the emergency room after spending about 4 hours in a semi-comatose state along with extensive dystonia.

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder, in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures.[1] The movements may resemble a tremor. Dystonia is often initiated or worsened by voluntary movements, and symptoms may “overflow” into adjacent muscles.[2]

I’ve had these episodes before but this last one started out with an increase in my double vision, severe head pain followed by nausea and vomiting.  Fortunately, I had a doctors appointment scheduled that morning and my mother was able to coax me into the car.  At the doctors office, the shocked staff quickly brought a wheelchair.  I was unable to keep my eyes open or speak very much at all when there.  The doctor who had never seen me in this state previously kept looking at the records of my evaluations with Neurologists only to find nothing.  As he said, the problem is that when I am not having an episode like this I don’t appear to be very sick.  This causes Neurologists to suggest that I am in need of psychological help (a suggestion which sounds like “This patient is delusional and faking his symptoms” to me).  In the past two weeks an event of this severity and duration that had previously occurred once or twice a year has happened four times.

The Good News

Having to leave seminary and ministry because of my illness sent me into a tailspin of depression and crisis of faith.  The other morning as I was heading into the event that led to my trip to the hospital instead of listening to rock tunes from the 70’s and 80’s I put Pandora on a station of worship music.  As my body drifted into semi-consciousness I was glad that I was listening to songs of worship.  I believe this was the grace of God comforting me in that difficult moment.  Since then, I’ve found a renewed interest in scripture and worship for which I’m very grateful.

To those who I’ve ignored or shut out over the past few months, I apologize… I’m sure you can understand how I really hate being a perpetual bummer to those around me. I suppose it is better that I stay engaged as long as I am able.