Monday, July 20, 2009

Grieving vs. Ticking Off and God Allowing Himself to "Need" Us

I really couldn't think of anything to call this post. Insights while in Walmart? Caffeine-induced vain imaginings? Contemplative life when kids are at VBS?

Clever, witty titles escape me at the moment. This morning, I actually was able to spend some time in the Word and talking with God - granted, it was in the parking lot at Walmart - but if I'd gone home I would have just logged back onto the laptop and gleefully sparred over at DefCon or 4Simpsons.

Nope. All four kids were safely deposited at VBS this morning - which I am NOT teaching this year - and I had three hours to figure out what to do with myself (other than grocery shop, which was a no-brainer).

I have not been blogging much lately, mainly because I have had nothing particularly edifying to share. Trying to trace my growing cynicism back to it's roots, I glanced through my prayer journal in the car to determine when, exactly, I had joined the JCC (Jaded Christians' Club). There were a surprising number of entries with Psalm verses and other passages God had quickened to my spirit over the last year, all of which spoke some encouraging or reassuring message of His faithfulness. One common theme has long been the nagging fear that no matter what I do or fail to do, for some reason at virtually every moment of any given day, God is mad at me. This is literally a tape that loops through my conscious mind. It really annoys me of late. (Imagine how God must feel about it, if I even manage to annoy myself).

Now, technically I do believe it's possible to make God mad. God gets angry, and contrary to what many Christians believe, He does sometimes get angry with His children. (John Macarthur devoted most of a chapter in "Forgiveness" to that subject, and how God's discipline can, in fact, be punitive.) Jesus got ticked off sometimes with His disciples, although with good reason. So it's not as if God couldn't, theoretically, get mad at me. However, I think God has a much longer fuse than I tend to give Him credit for. The Bible says He is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18 and a whole bunch of other places) and gracious and merciful (Psalm 145:8). Deliberate rebellion and stubborn unrepentance angers Him.

But here's what the Holy Spirit revealed to me today: constant concern that "He's mad at me" is self-centered. It's rooted in an attitude of self-preservation and is the logical antecedent of self-pity. It belies a certain concern for my own welfare - how I am seen in His eyes. (This applies to human relationships, as well). God is a Person, and can be grieved according to the Bible (Genesis 6:6; Matt. 26:38; Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:30). There is a difference between worrying that "He's mad at me" and "I've grieved Him". Feeling conviction for a particular sin or general un-Christlike attitude should cause us discomfort if we belong to Him. But if my default mode is "He's mad at me", I'm still worried about me. Godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:11) will be concerned first and foremost that "I've grieved the Lord".

Frankly, that's a much stronger motivation for true repentance and inward change. I hate that I grieve God. I probably pain Him about a million times a day, and I'm only vaguely aware of a few thousand offenses. And the amazing part is that He keeps forgiving me. Who wants to hurt a Savior like that?
Here's another interesting thing I was reflecting on while looking for boys' socks in the Stuff Mart. (I'm telling you, I need to go shopping without my kids more often!) I was thinking about how gosh-darned neat it is that while God, (being God and all), doesn't need any of us, He sees fit to keep us around anyway. Sort of to humor us, if you will, as we await our adoption as sons (or in the case of half of us, as daughters). A line in a Casting Crowns song underscores the doctrine of God's completeness and need of nothing outside Himself:
"How refreshing to know You don't need me
How amazing to find that You want me.."
(from "The Power of Christ in Me")
Then the donkey popped into my mind.

Oh yeah.

"Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.' "(Mark 11:2-3; cf. Luke 19:31).

Now, TECHNICALLY (my son's favorite word), the Lord didn't really "need" the baby donkey in order to complete His Messianic entrance into Jerusalem and thus fulfill Zechariah 9:9. God's sovereign plan for the redemption of mankind wouldn't have been thrown into a tailspin if the donkey had refused to cooperate. Jesus (being God and all) could have instantly created another donkey if He wanted to, or have pre-determined the prophecy to have Him in a Corvette. But He chose to allow Himself to "need" the donkey. In a similar way, He "needed" the prayer support and fellowship of His (fallible) disciples in Gethsemane. Jesus allowed Himself, in order to fully identify with our humanity, to experience the "need" for human intimacy. As God, the Trinity was (and is) completely satisfied and in perfect fellowship with Itself. Yet as Christ was (and is) fully human as well as divine, it seems He deliberately made Himself vulnerable by soliciting human help in His humanity. This demonstrates the humble nature of Christ (Matthew 11:29).

In a sense, He does the same thing with His followers today, although He's in His exalted state and doesn't have the same immediate "needs" as He chose to experience on earth. But think about it: what's God's plan for the salvation of His elect? The Gospel must be preached. By whom?




That's why it's called "The Great Commission". I've heard it said that Matthew 28:19 is God's plan for the world, and He doesn't have a Plan B. So while it's true God doesn't technically "need" us, just as He chooses to call us His friends, He deems to "need" us in the sense He gives us the privilege of "helping" fulfill His grand plans. (Kind of like cooking with a 5-year-old. You let them "help".) Bad analogy, but remember that even if we mess up our calling, God's sovereign will can't be thwarted. I often sweat that we're not giving enough to GFA and people are going to hell because we went on vacation, or if I had just been more convincing at the missions meeting the orphans in Belarus would have more sponsors, medicine, and Bibles. But as my KGB-monitored friend in Minsk once said to me, "Marie, God is not in some sort of trouble that He needs our help." Allowing us to be part of the plan is clearly for our blessing, not His.

And yet...there is a deep need (or strong desire, if you prefer) in all of us to be needed. This is true of all people, male or female. God programmed that need into us, and He understands our souls better than we could ever hope to ourselves. He made us to need (Him) and be needed. In a paradoxical yet tenderly paternal way, He has allowed Himself to "have need" of us, corporately and individually, even while never really needing us at all. Just because He loves us.

Pretty cool thought.

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