Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Where Are My Great Escapes?

We have all heard the biblical stories of God delivering Israel via destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, of how Nebuchadnezzar’s fires did not consume Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and of Peter’s jailbreak with the assistance of an Angel. The scriptures are salted with such miraculous escapes from being in harm’s way. And what is our takeaway from these Great Escapes? That when we get into trouble, when we are descending into a fiery trial, that God will also give us a way out: a miraculous intervention where He saves our bacon. But most of the time—or all of the time—there we sit in our trials, where there is no parting of the Red Sea, no quenching of the flames, and no Angel to guide us out of our prisons.

Our Job-like “friends” announce that we obviously have ticked off the Almighty with our unrighteous behavior. Others echo Job’s wife, telling us to get it over with: to curse God and die. And the bearers of the Good News of Hallmark Cards tell us that, any day now, a rainbow will appear and from then on there will be nothing but smooth sailing.  And right on cue a hurricane barrels through our property, destroying everything we own.

“What’s wrong with me that the God who is love doesn’t see fit to rescue me? After all, you can barely turn a page of the Bible without seeing someone being rescued, healed, or delivered.” Really? What’s wrong is that we have taken isolated events over thousands of years and created a picture of God’s Ways With His People, while ignoring those biblical stories that far outnumber the Great Escapes, where God did not intervene.

“But Monte, God even takes notice of and cares for every sparrow that falls from the sky, how much more so will He care for us.” Yes. He does see that sparrow fall. And there it lies, dead.

The fact that Peter and Paul, two of the greatest leaders and heroes of Christ’s Church were martyred should have at least given us a clue that, in this life, we have not been promised a pain or trouble free existence. “God is with us and loves us” doesn’t mean, “And a good time was had by all.”

You have to wonder just how much of our view of the Normal Christian Life is actually based on the American Dream. But what can you expect when so many ministers here in the US have covered Christ’s Good News with fools gold. 

“Getch’ your Popcorn, Peanuts, Sacraments! Why, one little sip of this spiritual elixir and you will become part of God’s Holy Lake Wobegone, ‘where are all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.’ Get it? Lake Woe-be-gone. Hallelujah!” (With apologies to Garrison Keillor)

We want lives where, metaphorically, we heroes of the faith conquer kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, and escape the edge of swords, being powerful in battle! (Hebrews 11. 32-34) But what about those who were tortured, or faced jeers and flogging, were stoned to death or sawed in two, or wandered in deserts, destitute, persecuted and mistreated? (11. 35-38) Didn’t the author site these people too as people of faith, worthy of honor?

Christ’s promise to “be with you always” is not a talisman providing good luck and a charmed life. Life can be difficult enough without saddling people with the disastrous idea that if we only had more faith, more of the Holy Spirit, were more holy, and had a head full of “sound theology,” then life would be just peachy. How many people are languishing in a prison of self-hatred because their lives scream, “Where are you God?” all while thinking their plight is a sign of a shameful lack of devotion, rather than simply life this side of heaven? God have mercy.  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

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