This week we entered into our 5th class with the topic of fear.
365 times in the Bible God says “fear not” as a commandment to us. In this sense, God is directing us to give value to Him alone, not to the things of this world.
The most common definition that we prescribe to fear is that of being anxious or fearful about a particular situation.
Have you ever been anxious about God’s character? Are you uneasy about his goodness? Do you fear that he may not, in fact, be good?
The onset of an eating disorder often occurs when something bad has happened to us. Then there is the situation of the eating disorder itself. The torment and suffering in the midst of an eating disorder undoubtedly makes any Jesus following girl question God’s goodness.
Questions arise: Why is this happening to me? How could a good God allow this?
So often we equate God’s goodness with safety. Like Job’s unwise friends, we fall prey to the lie that if we do the “right” things that we will be free from disease, calamity, destruction and suffering.
God loved Job, stating that “there is no one on earth like him, he is blameless and upright, a man who fears (values) God and shuns evil.” God loved Job. Yet, Job was not promised safety. His children and livestock were killed. Job was afflicted with sores covering his entire body. He was not given a healthy, wealthy comfortable life to lead.
John Eldridge and Brent Curtis speak of this uncertainty of God’s character in their book, Sacred Romance, “God leaves Abraham with his knife raised and ready to plunge into Isaac’s heart and Isaac waiting for the knife to descend…God abandons Jesus to the cross and does not rescue him at all. There are those of us who, along with the saints under heaven’s very alter; are groaning under the weight of things gone wrong, waiting for that same Jesus to return and sweep us up with him in power and glory. How long, O Lord?, we whisper in our weariness and pain.”
Reading the story of Job is uncomfortable. None of us want to experience the trials that Job encountered. We desire health for ourselves and for our loved ones. We want to live comfortably. We want safety.
When we don’t experience health, wealth and safety, we quickly call into question God’s goodness.
God’s goodness depends on perspective. Eldredge and Curtis point out, “if we picture God as the mastermind behind the story, calling the shots while we, like Job, endure the calamities, we can’t help but feel at times what C.S. Lewis was bold enough to put words to: “We’re rats in the cosmic laboratory.”
So, what is God’s perspective on us? Is his heart good towards us?
Before God created man and woman, “he opened his heart and home to a heavenly host before us.” He gave freedom to a host of angels, yet one turned against Him. Satan, as an angel who wanted not to serve God, but to be above him, launched a rebellion of cosmic proportion. His rebellion rested on this very fact, that God was not good.
Yet, we can see that God is good in that he gave the angels, and man, freedom. God didn’t make us as puppets in a play because he wanted lovers. He created us out of His great love, for the purpose of love. God's heart from the start was not to control our love for him, but for us to choose HIm. Yet, this same freedom explains the problem of evil, suffering, calamity and destruction.
God has created us for freedom. For love. Yet all the while, the whispers of Satan continue in our ears, “God is not good, He is holding out on you.”
But God’s demonstration of his goodness towards us hung to death on a tree. “At the point of our deepest betrayal, when we had run our farthest from him and gotten so lost in the woods we could never find our way home, God came and died to rescue us.” (Romans 5)
Simon Tugwell states, “So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about; He is looking for us. And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it, we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against him. And He knows that and has taken it into account. He has followed us into our own darkness; there were we thought finally to escape him, we run straight into his arms. So we do not have to erect a false piety for ourselves, to give us the hope of salvation. Our hope is in his determination to save us, and he will not give in”. (Prayer)
*Italics indicate thoughts from The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge