There is a tiresome joke among Christians about patience that goes like this:
“I don’t want to pray for patience, because by golly, God will send me all sorts of circumstances to try it!”
What’s not so funny is that, deep down, many people actually believe this, reflecting their impression of a marionette god, one that pulls our strings as if we were puppets, and if we don’t pray correctly — with enough caveats so that God doesn’t sadistically misinterpret what we really mean — we’ll wind up in trouble.
So, when we pray for patience, God gives a diabolical laugh (bit of an oxymoron there) and says, “Yesssssssss, my foolish child. I will give you all sorts of opportunities to develop patience!”
The Wrong God
Quite frankly, if that’s the kind of God we believe in, or we can even remotely attribute behavior to Him that, exhibited in a human, could rightly be called perverse, unkind, harsh, unfeeling, or callous, then we need to stop, reflect, pray, meditate, and ask God to show us who He actually is:
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1 exults. “And that is what we are!”
Loving Fathers Don’t Provoke
This heavenly Father of ours has a far greater moral compass than we do, and if we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children — bread, when they ask for bread; fish, and not snakes, when they ask for fish (Matthew 7:11) — then why do we belabor under the misapprehension that when we ask our heavenly Father for something we need — like patience, trust, or faith — that He’s going to answer the prayer in a fashion so distasteful and cruel, that we humans would never dream of treating our own children that way?
“Ah, but His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways,” people so frequently misapply Isaiah 55:8 to explain away, or squash down, doubts about certain teachings we are instructed to believe (they vary, within the denominations) without keeping in mind another verse in Isaiah, 29:13, in which the same God observes our tendency to worship Him in light of the rules and doctrines taught by men.
The Doctrines of Men
Now it’s not necessarily so that human doctrine specifically teaches that God is nasty, but some of the beliefs we try to squish our feet into wind up pinching our toes. As a human, if your child ran into a house — against your express command — and that house began to burn, would you turn around and walk away, with the justification of, “I told him not to go in there, and he deliberately chose to disobey me”?
I don’t think so. If God would, then it is indeed true that His ways are not our ways, because our ways are better.
And that definitely ain’t so.
It’s not enough to say that we’ll understand someday, while we’re up in the bliss of heaven, which will somehow be perfect even though a number of our loved ones won’t make it because they didn’t say the right series of salvation words, in the right order, with the correct spiritual mindset, because if we cannot rely upon the deepest sense of our conscience — which God put within us — to help us differentiate between right and wrong, honorable and cowardly, righteous and evil — then what can we rely on?
If God seems small and mean — and the god that many people try so hard to follow does seem that way — then the problem may lie in the way we are viewing Him, defining Him, interpreting Him.
What may be known about God is plain to us, because God made it plain to us — “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Roman 1:19-20)
This means that when we muse, “Gosh. If my child asked for help on a science project, I wouldn’t go out to the bar and drink,” we are exhibiting not only an understanding of good parenting, but of goodness itself.
As part of that good parenting, most of us wouldn’t take the project over from the kid and do it, and our help may possibly look different than what the child is expecting or hoping (especially if it’s the day before the project, given 8 months ago, is due). But because we are our child’s parent, he rightfully expects that, when he needs help and asks for it, we have an obligation to give it — kindly, wisely, graciously, mercifully, and well.
So also, can we expect fair, good, loving treatment from our Father, and when we are hurting and cannot understand, it is far better to approach Him with confidence and say, “I am hurting. I am confused. I don’t understand what is going on. But You do — and You are not cruel to your children. Walk me through this.”
Our first thought should never be one of doctrine, based upon man’s interpretation of words, but rather, the acceptance and awareness that God. Is. Love.
He is all good. He is all light. He is all that is perfect and desirable and compassionate. He is the ultimate of what we mean by the word, “humane,” because He is divine.
If any thought, any doctrine, any teaching, any precept leads us to think of God as other than completely loving and kind to His children, then we need to adjust our ideas about the doctrine, not our ideas about God.
So about that patience — if you feel the need to pray for it, then do so with confidence and trust, knowing that the very reason you feel such a desire to ask for it, is because God put that desire into your heart.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where for years I tried to love an unlovable God. When I began reading Scripture for myself, seriously, and praying for God’s teaching, I began to notice that quite a few things I had been taught don’t align well with what’s actually written in the Bible.
So I went on the one thing that keeps getting repeated: God is our loving Father, and I built on that. I would so rather know my Father than all the theological and philosophical arguments about Him.
Posts complementing this one are
God — Coming out of the Closet
No Fear — Experience Christ’s True Love