When God doesn’t work

God doesn’t work.

This was the heretical-on-a-number-of-levels thought I had the other day.

See, I did everything ‘right’. I spotted the signs of my God-hunger and received the information that maybe I was running on empty, trying to operate in my flesh and looking to those around me to meet needs that are designed to be met by God.


I like the Snickers commercials. The premise is that you’re not yourself when you’re hungry. You behave like a totally different person and you have no idea why. Then you get food and realize: oh! I was just hungry!  

When I was a kid I remember every time I would get upset about something my family would exchange glances and ask one another when was the last time I ate. I have learned to spot my signs of hunger. Irritability, mental confusion, shakiness are all symptoms that prompt me to check my stomach and consider whether or not I might need food.

Too many posts

There are too many posts I want to write today.

I want to write a post about how today proves how wrong we can be about the story. We can feel like it’s all over.  Every sense and all our logic can conspire to convince us that Satan has won.  We can look around and seemingly see evidence that failure has overcome fight and darkness has dissolved the light and despair has cannibalized hope. And we can be wrong. What looks and feels like the end might actually be the beginning. The days that are darkest might prove in time to be the days of greatest light.

Unimaginable future

Before we moved to America, my mother painted the walls of my room with a mural of a village. At night I would lie in bed and walk my feet along the pathway on the wall.  And I would shut my eyes and imagine that Heaven was like that Village.  It was a place with no bad dreams where nothing bad ever happened.
When I was 8 years old or so, I used to find heaven in the clouds. I would look out the window and imagine that I was inside of Heaven, the clouds with all their fogginess wrapping around me like cotton balls and keeping me safe.
Less than a decade later, my version of Heaven shifted again.  Heaven was about being reunited with my grandmother.  Heaven was a place where I could see her face again, along with all those I loved that I knew I would one day lose.

A lot of people believe in a version of Heaven: a consolation for this life, a place where all the things they lost are made up for.

But the Christian Heaven is so strange and unique. It holds something better than consolation: restoration.

Tim Keller talks about the irreversibility of loss.  And I know exactly what the means. It’s the worst part of grief, the worst part of regret: waking up and remembering that you have lost something and feeling the powerless and helpless sense that you cannot regain it.

I know this sense.  I have felt the grasping in my soul to un-do the loss of my father; to un-do sins I’ve committed; un-do break-ups; to change decisions I’ve made; to make my friend alive again.  I have felt the horror of irreversible loss.

Heaven holds out to me deliverance from that horror.  A promise better than consolation. Heaven is not a ‘making up’ for all the pain and loss you’ve experienced, it is a making that pain and loss mean something glorious.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV)

That verse says two crazy things.  (1) Suffering is accomplishing something. (2) That ‘something’ is so amazing it makes our pain look small in comparison.

Suffering is not small.  This text isn’t saying that pain isn’t real and life isn’t tragic and terrifying and overwhelming.  This text is saying that if you and I could see what is to come, even our worst pain would seem light and momentary in comparison.  This verse isn’t about belittling your hurt and suffering, it’s about emphasizing how HUGE the glory is that is coming.   Think about how heavy your pain is. Now imagine how big the weight of glory must be if it can make that seem light in comparison!Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.18.31 AM

But, this verse says even more than that. Our pain and affliction is preparing that weight of glory.  It is not simply that what is coming in Heaven is so great that it is going to make up for your pain and loss, it’s that the pain and loss is making what is coming in Heaven.  The joys you’ll experience on the flip side are the fruit of the pain on this side.

I don’t know how that works, but here’s how I imagine it.  I imagine that the losses in this life are carving out room in my soul to make room for more of God in the next life. I imagine that the loss of a Father in this life has increased my soul’s capacity to experience Him as Father in the next.  I imagine that the pains of singleness in this life have stretched my heart to make space for His partnership in the next.

What I know for sure is that no pain in this life is wasted. It is accomplishing – preparing for me – something that is too great to imagine.

Do you begrudge His generosity to others

I am a little weary of the scrambl-ey feeling in my heart.  I’m a little tired of the constant comparing of myself to other writers, to other teachers, to other women.  I’m exhausted by the way I seems to be threatened by other people’s success and the way I envy their gifts.

Where did we learn the lie that the value of what we’re given is determined by comparing to what others get?  Seriously.  God gives us this delicious beautiful piece of cake, and we’re thrilled, excited, until we notice that the girl next to us got a cherry on her piece.  And suddenly gratitude is cannibalized by envy; God has withheld from us.  So we start sabotaging and stealing from one another to level the playing field.

We will only be satisfied when we have a better piece of cake.  Or at least an equal slice.  Our contentment is dependent on our confidence that no one around us has more than us.  So we grasp and push and shove, desperate to get a little bit closer to the position we want, which is only valuable to us because it is ahead of someone else.

The disciples had the same problem.  They argued over position and power. And so Jesus told them: here’s the game plan:  Seek the smallest piece of cake, give away the cherry.  Stop fighting for a position of prominence. Seek the lowest place.  For the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

And He told them this story:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
The workers in this parable got what they had been promised.  But instead of receiving the gift with gratitude they felt robbed, wronged.  If they hadn’t they notice that others got the same amount for less work they would have been satisfied, but their fear that someone else was getting more rendered their own reward insufficient.  

And I love the master’s response: Do you begrudge my generosity?  When you see that other mom’s kids obeying her perfectly in the way you long for your kids too, do you begrudge God the right to give them that grace?  When you watch another single friend find a great fit for marriage, do you begrudge God the right to be generous to her?

Look at your own hands for just a moment and see the good you have received.  For starters – you have been given life and breath and an eternal inheritance filled with unimaginable glory and access to the Creator of all things who loves you flawlessly and constantly.

I have spent serious time this morning repenting with tears for this grasping competitiveness that leads me to cheer for others to succeed with a fake smile and a hollow heart or to envy those getting the blessings I crave.  Repenting for the way I clutch and steal at attention and success like Golem grasping for that damn ring.

I had to say sorry to God today.  Because there are corners of my heart that actually want Him to withhold gifts from others so that I can feel more secure.

I asked Him to make me someone who seeks the smallest piece of cake. I want to seek being last for two reasons.

First, because I know that what I have in Him is delicious and perfect. I am the wealthiest person alive in Christ. I have access to all I need in Him. I can give away everything else.

And the second reason I want to become obsessed with giving the cake away is because those who are last, shall be first. You know what that means?  Those who have less in this life are just making more room in their hearts for more of Him in the next life. We can celebrate as God blesses others knowing that any pangs of hunger or lack we experience are just His way of carving out space for an eternity of satisfaction.