Day 27

10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:10-14, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

The past few days I’ve been writing in response to a Facebook post I saw from a person who left the faith because he found God too angry. If you haven’t read the prior 2 days, do that first!

 

Confirmation bias. Have you heard this term before? Confirmation bias is what happens when I want to believe something so badly that I’ll only pay attention to evidence that supports that belief. Not too long ago, Brittany told me microwaves are harmful and shouldn’t be in homes. She told me all the evidence supports this. I began researching. I found that, yes, some evidence supports this…for microwaves that are about 30-40 years old. But almost none of the evidence supports this for the modern microwave. Despite all the research I sent her, she still doesn’t believe me. Confirmation bias, people!

 

If you read the Old Testament and only see God’s anger, that’s confirmation bias. It’s true that God doesn’t like it when his people don’t accurately reflect on his character. God wants the world to be able to accurately know what kind of God he is- and they can’t do that if the people don’t live out God’s character. And, I’ll say it again, the passages detailing God’s anger are a fraction of those that speak to his more dominant qualities, those of grace, mercy, forgiveness, love.

 

Have you ever been angry? Does that mean you have an anger management problem? I know some of you do, but for most people being angry is a momentary thing and not a way of life. You can be angry without having an anger problem. I’ve seen my dad get angry a few times (literally, a few). When he gets angry, he really gets angry. But it’s very, very rare. When my dad is angry, he has a perfectly good reason to be. It is not arbitrary, unjust, unfair, irrational, or unexplainable. I have no reason to think God is any different based on my reading of the Bible.

 

 


Day 26

10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:10-14, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

Yesterday I wrote the beginning of a response to a person who gave up his faith because he feels God is too angry. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of defending God as I’ve said many times God needs no defense. He also welcomes questions. But I think this is a common Biblical misnomer- and it’s one of those things that might get in our way of believing in God “at times like these.” So, if you haven’t read yesterday’s post. Go do that. I don’t have enough space to repeat myself.

 

Here’s the essence of what I see going on when God “disciplines” his people. Let’s start with this question: Why does God “have” people? Well, so that the world can learn who God is. What happens when the people live in violent ways and refuse to care for each other (these are essentially the reasons the people were “disciplined”)? The world cannot know God because the world cannot see God’s life on display in the lives of his people. If the world cannot know God…then we have a problem!

 

God not only wants to be known but wants to be intimately involved with his people and his creation. Therefore, he had to put his people in time out. It upset him that he had to do so. It upset him that his people did not put him on display. This is true. But it took hundreds (if not thousands) of years for him to get worked up enough to do something about it. He is patient time and time and time again, willing to forgive time and time and time again.

 

Do we think we deserve so much grace that when God’s very presence in the world is threatened we think he should still stay calm about that? It’s a very entitled way of thinking that says, “Yes, God was patient and forgiving for thousands of years and disciplined his people for like 100 years…but he shouldn’t have even done that!”


Day 25

10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:10-14, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

Someone sent me a Facebook post that is going viral this morning. The post was the author’s declaration that he was stepping away from Christianity because the God of the Bible was too angry and too violent. I hear this kind of thing a lot, and it surprises me.

 

Don’t get me wrong- I used to have that same opinion. Until I was required, in school, to spend a lot of time reading the Old Testament. Over time it became clear to me that for all the talk about God’s anger, the examples of this are a small minority in the Old Testament. Now, if you add in passages about God saying he will be angry then perhaps the numbers go up a little…but it’s still not a major theme.

 

This passage, it seems to me, is much more aligned with what we typically see in the OT. For a vast majority of it, God is a pushover. The people do whatever they want, get themselves into messes, and God bails them out. Until, finally, after hundreds of years of patience, God puts them in time out. Even when they’re in time out, we’re told that God does this because he has his eyes on a bigger picture: a peaceful world. His ultimate goal is peace.

 

I don’t know what is going on in the life of the person who wrote that post, but I would guess it isn’t good. I feel sorry for him. It makes me sad to think that of the hundreds, if not thousands, of verses in the OT that speak of God’s patience, his grace, his forgiveness, and his desire for peace, this man saw only hate. That is truly sad.


Day 24

10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:10-14, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

Here’s why I like all this talk of God being a god of both suffering and celebration. It’s realistic. It’s believable. I get skeptical when it seems like someone is “over-promising”. Many of us in recovery struggle with expectations. This is because we’ve encountered an over-abundance of empty promises. I don’t want the God of empty promises. I don’t want a God who under-delivers. I don’t want to be a person who over promises nor one who under-delivers. And, for this reason, I appreciate this passage. It doesn’t suggest a quick or magical end. In fact, God is saying settle in because this is going to last a while, but I’m going to be right there with you.

 

I know life is hard. I also know I can’t escape that. I know being “more faithful”, or praying more, or reading more, is no guarantee of improved life circumstances. I know good and bad will both come my way. That is reality. Because that is reality, I’m thankful that God is going to be present.


Day 23

10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:10-14, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

God seems to know when his people need him the most. Isn’t it interesting that God actually seems to care what his people need? Often times when I read books or listen to sermons I hear people talk about God as if God’s philosophy is always my way or the highway. God does have a way, but that “way” takes into account the well being of his people. He didn’t create his plans knowing full well that it was going to make everyone miserable. No, he made a plan that benefits all of us and, in the messy process of getting to the end of that plan, he promises to be there, to listen, to comfort.

 

God takes no pleasure in suffering. In fact, I suspect he has to endure it just as we have to endure it. Thank goodness he’s right there with us.


Day 22

10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:10-14, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

We return to these verses often. That’s because they’re important, and because there’s a lot to be sorted out. God’s promise in verse 11 gets a lot of attention, but we often miss the dynamic there. God’s promise in verse 11 does not make things instantly easy. In fact, God is explicitly saying that things are going to be hard for a long time. But, he says, I will not leave you. When you pray, he’ll listen. When you search, you’ll find. I will be present for you.

 

Throughout the Bible God also seems to be in and around people who are going through hard times. He seems to have a special affinity for those who are down on their luck. This is particularly good news for those who are wrestling with the question: How can you believe in God at a time like this? It’s good news because we’re more likely to find him in the space where we’re asking that question than just about anywhere else.

 

 


Day 21

7 Think! What innocent person has ever perished?

   When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?

8 As I’ve observed, those who plow sin

   and sow trouble will harvest it.

9 When God breathes deeply, they perish;

   by a breath of his nostril they are annihilated.

10 The roar of a lion and snarl of the king of beasts—

   yet the teeth of lions are shattered;

11        the lion perishes without prey,

           and its cubs are scattered. Job 4:7-11, CEB

 

How can you believe in God at a time like this?

 

People have dodged this question for centuries, it seems. In this passage, one of Job’s friends is talking. Remember, at the end of Job, God expresses displeasure with Job’s friends as they clearly don’t understand who God is.

 

That means we know the questions in these verses are the wrong kinds of questions. Plenty of innocent people have perished. Plenty, “…who do the right thing,” have been destroyed. It’s simple-minded to think that life, and God, are so easy to manipulate.

 

Because God admonishes Job’s friends, this means we do have permission to ask questions and to investigate. Perhaps that’s one way to believe “at a time like this.” To investigate, to question, to shout, to lament. It’s a lost art in the church where, today, you’re far more likely to hear a sermon that says, “True Christians never experience pain,” as you are to hear one that says, “Pain is part of life and, therefore, we need to wrestle with God.”

 

So, again, I encourage you to wrestle.


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