Welcome to the wilderness. With God.
I remember the first time I left church as a young teen. Taking the ‘holier than thou’ attitude, I thought peers around me were simply going to church for friendships, rather than for God. I left for a year. And experienced the worst time of my year.
I failed my exams. My mum had to go through surgery. I lost a leadership role I coveted.
I just didn’t know how to carry on.
Getting your life back on track with God is never easy.
But it’s always worth it.
As I was speaking with my therapist yesterday, he said something that struck me.
Welcome to the Christian faith, the faith of paradoxes.
The Christian faith is one that holds paradoxes.
Why we leave
We leave because we are disappointed with God.
- How can a God who provides everything, give you nothing when you pray for something you want?
- How can a kind, merciful and loving God end up allowing bad things to happen to good people.
- If grace is free, and the cost of our salvation is nothing, and yet will cost us everything, what do you do?
The faith of paradoxes
Think of our paradoxical faith this way.
Grace is free. It’s freely given by God. It will never come at our bidding.
But if it cannot be earned, does that mean that we should go on sinning more, since we are going to be graciously forgiven anyway?
Or think of faith.
How do you pray with the expectation that God will ‘move the mountain’, and yet submit to his will? Meaning, how do you pray with faith, whilst acknowledging that it may not turn out the way you want it?
Isn’t this confusing? No wonder we get offtrack from God.
Here’s an example. For the past 11 months, I’ve been looking for a job. I’ve come to the point where I simply pray for the sake of it, not truly believing that God will give me a job. It’s easier that way, because then you wouldn’t get disappointed.
As MJ said in the Spiderman movie,
If you expect nothing, you’ll never be disappointed.
But as I spoke to my therapist last night, I realised that it didn’t need to be an either/or thing. It could be both/and.
I could have faith that God would give me a job, whilst submitting my will to his. To acknowledge that his will was sovereign, above mine.
There aren’t any how-tos in this article. Because if I’ve realised something, you can’t fit God in a box. All you can do to get back on track with God, is to realise this.
You can never understand God.
Our God is a God beyond description, beyond measure, beyond understanding. Every time you feel like you understand God, he does something that makes you go,
Wow, I never knew that.
He brings you into deeper and deeper waters each time you feel that you know him.
So that you will know him more.
Accepting from the outset that you will never understand God will help you in humbling yourself. When things end up turning unlike the way you expected it, you realise, maybe this is the God I don’t understand.
Why do you want to get back on track?
The final lesson is this.
Why do you want to get back on track?
Are you getting back on track with God because you want something from him? In other words, are you giving to get? Dr Glover, the author behind ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, said these are like ‘covert’ contracts, where you give to get.
You’re not giving to give.
I remember the day I came back to church. And stayed at church. It was the day that I realised that I needed God, more than anything else. I didn’t know where else I could go with my life. I needed him desperately.
And then I realised that God had always been chasing me, all along. It wasn’t me chasing him.
It was him chasing me.
Don’t think of it as you getting back on track with God.
It’s not something you do. Sometimes, it’s about simply submitting to something he does, to bring you home. It’s not about going somewhere. Getting somewhere.
Rather, it’s returning.