As I’ve been reading through the One-Year Bible this year, I’ve often felt frustrated and confused. God allowed one person to continue in horrible, blatant sin, and another He struck dead for a small infraction that I think could be handled through a simple rebuke. Job loved God with all his heart and followed God’s ways, but he lost everything for a time. David wrote Psalms with wonderful promises that the righteous will be blessed, yet he often lived as an outlaw and dealt with betrayal and disappointment. For someone who just wants to follow the rules and receive God’s blessing, this is a very difficult thing to wrap one’s head around. My pastor says it’s supposed to be difficult to understand. God doesn’t fit into a box and cannot be figured out. The mystery that is God is what makes Him worthy of our worship. I’ve tried to embrace that concept as I read, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wonder how to make it all fit.
It’s not hard for me to admit that I want to know what God wants me to DO to receive His blessings and have the things that I desire. “God, if You just lay out a course of action for me to accomplish, I will do it. Just tell me what to DO.” After all God’s done to show me His unconditional love, I still find myself trying to earn it, trying to figure out a way to become a person worthy of blessings. His answer continues to be a cheerful, “Be still, stop struggling, and wait for my redemption.” I feel like I’m lying on the couch, watching TV and eating grapes, while a hundred people around me clean and straighten up. I feel guilty and lazy. I want to get up and DO SOMETHING, but God just smiles and tells me to relax.
Then I read this passage: “Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)”
Suddenly a little light popped on in my head: If God gave us a set of rules to follow to receive His blessings, we’d have no incentive to get to know Him. We are lovingly pulled into an intimate relationship with Him when we want to find a way to please Him.
If everything was black and white, we could think our salvation and redemption was due to our own accomplishments and ability to follow the rules. But with God, there is much that only He understands, and it makes us realize that He is the one in control. We are to be full of faith that He is with us, He is guiding us, and He is perfect love.
The relationship is what He craves, rather than strict adherence to a set of rules. In spite of what we desperately want to find, there is no formula like “Perfect Obedience to The Law = Blessing.” The closest thing to a formula we have is: “Right Relationship with God = PEACE.”
The Bible doesn’t promise us that if we follow a strict set of rules and live pure and holy lives, we will be honored and rich and happy. Look at the life of Paul! He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, ship wrecked, and mocked. And yet as I read Paul’s writings, I find that he was a man full of confidence that he was obeying God’s voice and all the suffering was worth it. Paul was honored to suffer for the cause of Christ. I’m sure he was thankful for the times of physical comfort and the love of friends, but he sang praises to God even when he sat bloody and in chains in a dungeon.
The path God has asked me to walk over the last few months shows me that my formula to impress God is nothing to Him. But I do think that what makes Him smile is that uncertainty and fear drives me into His embrace. I may not know what the future holds, but I know that I have found peace with God. In spite of my circumstances, there are times that I can almost tangibly feel the arms of God around me, hear Him whispering in my ear that it will be all right, and I promise you – if it took suffering to get me into this place of intimacy with God, it has been worth it. There is nothing to compare.