I don’t understand God. I’m confident he’s working in the world, but I just don’t get why he seems to do some things and doesn’t do others. I believe in answered prayer. I believe in providence. What really throws me for a loop though is the why, when, where and how of things. Even so, the fact that I don’t understand God doesn’t surprise me. In fact, if I did understand God then what kind of God would he be? If God did everything I suggested, that would surprise me. I’m not surprised, but I am bothered.
It bothers me that God doesn’t take my advice. It bothers me when God doesn’t do the things that I think God should do. It bothers me that God is silent when I think he should speak, and he speaks when I think he should be silent. God is bothersome, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
David, the great king of Israel and author of many Psalms, wrote this: “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) He also wrote this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1–2) And this is the man who was referred to as, “a man after God’s own heart!”
God bothered David.
The lesser-known but equally-bothered prophet Habakkuk opens his Old Testament book like this: “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2) You can add Moses, Abraham and Job to the long list of people who have been bothered by God. I would suppose that your name has appeared on that list at some time in your life. What are we supposed to do with this bothersome God?
Sadly, some people just quit believing in him. I guess some would rather have a god who was predictable, agreeable and less mysterious, or have no god at all (if a predictable, agreeable and less mysterious god could actually exist, that seems almost as bothersome to me). But many a bothered soul has somehow managed to still believe. The above-mentioned David, Habakkuk, Moses, Abraham and Job are all members of the bothered-but-still-believing club. How is this possible?
When I look at these bothered-but-believing souls, there seem to be certain qualities they possess. They seem to acknowledge that they may not always know what is best. They seem to give God time to work things out knowing his timetable is different than theirs. They seem to know that running a universe filled with freewill gone amok is a little complicated. They seem to trust God to such an extent that they refuse to stop believing that he has a long-term plan even if it appears that randomness is the rule. And maybe above all, they possess hope. They have the unfaltering hope that a good, wise, loving and all-powerful God has written a beautiful ending that will make all the bother worth it.
Are you bothered by God? Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Join the club of the bothered but still-believing!
(Note to reader: I encourage you to read the endings of Psalm 13, 22, and Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Todd Catteau is the preaching minister for the Park Avenue Church of Christ in Denison. He is married with four children. More of his writing can be found at http://toddcatteau.blogspot.com.