Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A retraction

They say with age comes wisdom. As I've grown older, I wonder if part of that wisdom is realizing all the dumb things you said when you were younger. It's funny and a bit embarrassing remembering how wise I thought I was at the ripe age of 32 and how quick I was to give advice. I meant well and never intended to steer anyone wrong, but there are many things I would retract, one of which is:

"If God does it, it will be wonderful."

I'm not saying God is not good, but my advice was a mixture of sentimentality, Bill Bright, and a dash of Job's friends. Shake well, chill, serve, and voila! - a combo that was nothing more than a well-camouflaged, more palatable version of the prosperity gospel. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life with wonderful being what is pleasant and happy. Of course, if things aren't going well, you must be outside His will or have done something wrong, implying you have the power to derail this wonderful plan. But I didn't give the implications much thought. This was during one of the "happiest" times of my life, so all the more reason to dispense this gem. And in my naivete, weren't my present circumstances proof that this maxim was true? I fully expected the rest of my days to unfold likewise, but life never turns out according to our expectations.

My desires were the  normal, everyday hopes and dreams most women have. I didn't think I was asking too much, but God had something different in mind. To borrow John Newton's words, He crossed many fair designs and left some of those dreams in the dust. But in doing so, He exposed my self-centeredness and idolatry. Rather than wanting His glory, God was a means to my end - my idea of the perfect Christian life. This was a hard lesson, but despite the heartache, I wouldn't trade the present for the past for any price.

So after 20 years of water under the bridge and even though I may not be much wiser, I would offer this instead:

- God is good, but His goodness isn't measured by our happiness or our circumstances. The full extent of His goodness is displayed in Jesus' finished work.

- God is neither a happy-ending-Santa-in-the-sky nor a divine kill-joy who delights in crushing His children's hopes. God is our loving Father who wants to give us the best - Himself. His Spirit is working in our lives from the moment He saved us to the instant we join Him in glory. He is changing us to be like Christ and using every second of every joy and sorrow to that end. But in the joy and especially the sorrow, absolutely nothing can separate us from His love. 

- God can be trusted because the twists and turns of life don't depend on whether we got it or did it right. God is sovereign and makes no mistakes.

So if anyone from my past happens upon this, please throw out my previous advice, and pin your hope on this:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:28-39


  1. Boy, Persis, does this ever sound familiar! I shudder to think of how many glib statements I made before I hit the brick wall of my bad theology.The process of being shown the fallacy of my beliefs was a very painful, wonderful thing, and like you, something I wouldn't trade for the world. Thanks be to God!

    1. Yes, thanks be to God, Rosemary! It is His great kindness to open our eyes to the truth even if it is through painful means.

  2. This is exactly what I've been getting confronted with lately! I knew the prosperity gospel was all wrong of course...that was obvious, but what I didn't quite understand was that I had some kind of mixed up version of the same, my own unique brand, that was just as wrong and as you say; self centered rather than God centered. It was because God was all about making sure I made it to heaven, which is of course all about my happiness (groan).

    It is, of course, all about Jesus....not in a "religious" way, but in a very real and wholesome way. We put Him first not because He is a cosmic egomaniac. Jesus proved God is the complete antithesis of such a horrible thing. No. He knows that if we put Him first and our selfish flesh last, it is good medicine for our filthy, fallen condition, and He lovingly changes and removes those things that deprive us of the blessing of knowing Him fully and truly...and it is our selfish, fallen, egotistical flesh. I do not agree with the opposite evil of the monastic life. It is not so dependent on outward shows of Godliness as it is about a real honest relationship with Him. I think there will be many who put on a very good religious show in hell. It isn't about what we do for God, it IS all about what God does and has done through the offering of His perfect Son, to the mortifying of our flesh and cleansing of our souls...His work, His glory, His praise...not ours.

  3. Even at 44 I seem to sit on what I feel I should say. Some times those thought/advice go unspoken because of my fear of giving advice that isn't of God or will fall on deaf ears. I haven't always been this way. I too gave freely what I thought...not so good!